Friday, April 08, 2011

What makes me think of Horace Mann and William Lloyd Garrison

I am most fascinated by both the abolitionist movement of the 1800's and the public school reform movement of the same years.  With just a little research, (this is merely a reflection of my thinking, not a research paper) I find that both Horace Mann and William Lloyd Garrison were white men born in Massachusetts within 9 years of each other 1796 and 1805. Our children today really use some abolitionists and school reformers of any hue.

Today the equity and democracy in its purist form, is eroded by the poor delivery and outcomes of education for brown and black children.  This is especially onerous along the I-5 corridor and for African American students.  Is there really democracy when public systems are established in ways that give a handicap to those of European ancestry?
"... It is for us the living to dedicate ourselves to the great task remaining before us;  that cause for which many gave the last full measure of devotion that this new nation will have a new birth....." 
Abraham Lincoln.  
The writing of this was inspired by my watching Ken Burns', Civil War on KCTS while writing this blog. 

 Horace Mann is known for his commitment to many progressive ideas, but he is most prominently known for his commitment to public education.  I consider his life's work important to my own. Of all the things I am committed to, a public education that delivers equitable outcomes for all students is my life's purpose.  Myself, I had the advantage of an excellent public education, I was well prepared for life long learning and I was not a straight A student, in fact that letter eluded me throughout my K-12 education.

These white me remind me that we are interconnected as human beings.  Mann was the first President of Antioch,  I am associated with Antioch University, where I received my Masters in Education, served on a board and am an adjunct professor.  Antioch does not have sports teams their sport of sorts is progressive liberation.  Antioch's motto and something I subscribe to,, is a quotation from a presidential speech; (He died soon after. It is said but not substantiated, that his speech was outdoors and so long he got pneumonia)

Horace Mannaddress at Antioch College, 1859
Here is one from William Lloyd Garrison the great abolitionist and founder of the Liberator Newspaper.  This is evidence of his intense commitment to abolishing slavery. 
I will be as harsh as truth, and uncompromising as justice... I am in earnest, I will not equivocate, I will not excuse, I will not retreat a single inch, and I will be heard.

I am wondering when public schools shifted from centers of learning for children to centers of secured employment for adults.  When did this happen and how do we get to being able to supply the needs of both?   It is time to make schools a year round event this would be good for both teachers and students and society.  Summer vacations were not really vacations, they served the needs of an agrarian society, the crops needed to be tended to and harvested.  If family needs could be met early on, why are we unable to meet the needs of today's families? Parents do need children at home in the summer, to the contrary, they need them in school year round.  Raise the expectations of teachers of children who are expected to join the technology revolution and evolution, train them to teach to where we are going, not where we have come from.  Pay the great teachers well, increase the number of children they teach let those who can not or will not adapt to the needs of today's children find another craft. 

When I was in the legislature, representing the 37th District in Seattle, John Stanford was the Superintendent, he was a bright burst of energized force relative to public education. He knew his time with us was protracted and he took no prisoners on his short term and aborted time with us in Seattle.  He used words such as unforgivable acts. He and I visited schools together unannounced.  He thought it unique that the Superintendent and State Representative would do this on a regular  basis.  It was and has not happened since. Why would a State Legislator spend considerable amounts of time visiting and knowing intimately our schools, the teachers, principals and students?  Because the state constitution dictates that assuring a public education for all is the "Paramount Duty" of the legislature. It is not medical care, roads, Social Welfare, they are important of course and necessary but not specifically applied for in the way that public education is.

Mr Stanford like Horace Mann died while winning victories.  The motto hanging in his office:
"Do What You Say You Will Do."  He liked to point out that it is a palindrome the same coming and going.  (DWYSYWD)

So this morning I thought of Mann and Garrison and Stanford and I am inspired.

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