Letter: Columnist's 'scare tactics' about education are misleading

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Many citizens believe education is the critical component of democracy. Unfortunately political partisans have grasped to the goal of improving education for the future and overlaid the debate over national educational goals and states’ rights and local control.

The last session of the Maine state Legislature debated rigorously the merits of Common Core standards and proficiency-based graduation standards based on the established Learning Results Curriculum of public education. Public testimony convinced the Legislature to dismiss the Smarter Balance Assessment tests for evaluation and find better implementation. In addition to those who Julie McDonald-Smith indicts (“The Right View: Another education ‘reform’ targets Maine students”), the advocates of PBE include both houses of the Legislature, the Department of Education, and Gov. Paul LePage, who signed the law and vetoed a bill that would emphasize opt-out provisions for testing. Despite her pejorative statement about “Skinnerian ways,” a broad consensus of educators and business interests has recognized that critical thinking, decision making, self actualization, reading comprehension, self expression, and computational skills will be vital to the success of future citizens.

The local school board members that I know are interested in quality education for all students and recognize that individual attainment of skills and intellectual habits, coupled with love of learning, collaboration, and risk-taking confidence, are the necessary goals of public education. Scare tactics about regimentation and “worker bees” has nothing to do with what PBE proposes. Currently in Maine a commission of experienced educators and civic leaders are reviewing the goals and assessment standards expressed by Maine’s mandate to implement Proficiency Based Graduation Standards by 2018.

Robert Libby
Chebeague Island 

  • poppypapa

    Self-actualization? Don’t know how I made it through school, a career, and life in general without instruction and counseling in that vital ability.

    Sometimes I think most adults involved in educational policy and related matters care more about their own self-aggrandizement than about giving kids the basics they need to live as an adult able to rely on their own abilities.

    For example, how about the “open classroom” concept foisted upon an unknowing public in the 70’s? Jordan Acres School in Brunswick was built to implement this ‘revolutionary new concept’ stemming from the education experts and innovators of that era. Before long, the reality of what a bad idea it was surfaced, but it couldn’t be changed quickly or cheaply. In all likelihood, that’s why snow was allowed to build up on the roof several years ago until structural damage occurred, rendering the school ‘a lost cause.’

    Now the usual suspect architects are studying the situation at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, built in the 70’s with the same open concept, and called a ‘school with no walls.’

    Place your bets now as to whether they will recommend renovation or replacement. This is a chance to paper over another failed educational experiment, and money is not an issue. Only convincing town folk to spend it and pay the necessary increase in property taxes is. And enough weeping and gnashing of teeth is usually sufficient to make it happen.

    Towns never run a deficit, nor do school districts. They just raise the tax rate annually to generate whatever additional funding they need.

    And then you self-actualize when your property tax bill arrives.