Harold Levy is one of our building neighbors and one of the most effective school chancellors that NYC has had. He navigated through the political shoals against divisive and self-interested vested interests, introduced a teaching fellows program to fund experienced people willing to shift careers into teaching, and then returned first to Kaplan and now apparently back to the investment world. He, himself, was the beneficiary of one of NYC’s super high schools for brilliant kids. But here he reports what we all basically know — that a vast proportion of our children are not making it through high school or even getting past functional illiteracy.

What do we need to educate our kids properly? First off the U.S. has been a pioneer in early childhood education. We live near Columbia Teachers College where John Dewey once pioneered American learning and my own children got their starts at age 3 at the Bank St. School which is the demonstration school for the Bank St. College of Education — also nearby. At that time Bank St. was focused on educating teachers, parents, and kids. Subsequently it has had to face financial pressures through lack of governmental research funding that have diluted the process somewhat along with excluding those who cannot meet the escalating tuition costs — more than those of many of a college annually. What is needed in the U.S. universally is what France already has — universal publicly funded early childhood education.

Kids from diverse family and cultural backgrounds should start school no later than age three. They should be placed in small classes with at least two teachers at first (and extra student or parent assistants if possible) to get them started in an orderly way). They both need to be exposed to pre-formal schooling things and be taught behavior that respects both teachers and fellow students. At Bank St. our beginning children learned to build elaborate block structures and by the end of the first year these would remain intact even with kids running AROUND them, but not knocking them down. Maybe 15 or 16 kids in these early classes with class size increasing and the numbers of adults staffing declining as the kids progress in school.

Ours each left before the end of Bank St.’s terminal 8th grade to enter Horace Mann, the best of the college preps in NYC at the time. There they moved into advanced courses by 9th grade and generally had completed more or less the equivalent of the first year of college in such courses by the time they graduated. One who majored in classics and English at Cornell was placed in graduate classics courses after evaluation in her freshman year.

What is needed for our schools to function well as the children progress is far more teachers, paid better, given respect, and allowed to teach in ways that engage students’ interest — not the madness of the current teaching to the test which turns kids off and drives them out of school. To quote A. N. Whitehead, noted British philosopher who moved to the U.S. early in the twentieth century and wrote a classic book, The Aims of Education: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/whitehead/ “It is more important that a proposition be interesting than that it be true!”

The current “leave no child” horror is turning off kids and leaving them out in the cold, let alone behind. Needless to say, it we can spend billions each week on a pointless war in Iraq, we could do far better for Americans and the world at large getting our children educated. I will leave it to others to fill in the blanks.

I had the pleasure of teaching philosophy of education once at the beginning of my teaching career and served as a philosophy consultant to the James Conant Five College Committee on Teacher Education many years ago. We have the wherewithal to educate the children of this nation. We need the will (and funding) to do it — now! Read Harold’s op-ed and weep!

P.S. Our three grandchildren are getting superb educations in what is reputed to be the best public school system in eastern NY — Bronxville. They can’t wait to get to school each day! It is being done there.

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OP-ED CONTRIBUTORS Mistaking Attendance By HAROLD O. LEVY and KIMBERLY HENRY A clear national definition of a truant needs to be created, and all schools should report accurate statistics based on this definition. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/02/opinion/02levy-1.html?th&emc=th

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli) — Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies] http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CollegeConversation http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PeaceEfforts http://groups.yahoo.com/group/EndingPoverty http://groups.yahoo.com/group/440neighborhood http://groups.yahoo.com/group/StudentConcerns http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AcademicFreedom http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PrivacyRights http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Israel_Palestine http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FindingHumaneJobs http://BlogByEdKent.blogspot.com/ http://www.bloggernews.net

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