Tuesday, September 6, 2011

American Schools in Crisis

If we are serious about closing the achievement gap, we should make sure that every pregnant woman who is poor has good prenatal care and nutrition and that every child has high-quality early education before arriving in kindergarten. The achievement gap begins before the first day of school. If we mean to provide equality of educational opportunity, we must begin to level the playing field before the start of formal schooling. Otherwise, we will just be playing an eternal game of catch-up—and we cannot win that game.

It is worth remembering that the reason we first established public education was to advance the common good of the community. It began in small towns, where communities agreed that all the children should be educated for the good of all and the sake of the future. Public schools have a civic mission: They are expected to prepare young people to become citizens and to share in the responsibility of maintaining our society. As political forces tear them apart, creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and for profit, it diminishes our commonwealth. That is a price we must not pay.

These are the words of Diane Ravitch in one of the most wonderful, thoughtful pieces of writing about education that I've read in awhile. Read the full piece at the Saturday Evening Post. Ravitch was an assistant secretary of education under George H.W. Bush and Clinton, and her views on education reform have made a fairly radical sea change. She was someone who changed her mind through observation, and her observations are keen. This piece encapsulates her current take on public education - facing a crisis point, but as necessary and worthy of our belief and investment as ever.

The goal of BIKE NC is a community investment in education. My journey cycling across the state starts in scarcely three weeks. I am so grateful for the contributions so far. But we need more. My goal is $8,500. If you give, and help me spread the word, we can get there. Your donation goes straight to three nonprofit that work every day doing the work Ravitch says is so necessary to create equal opportunity for learning. Show them your support. Click "Donate." Now is the time to give. And you'll be with me every pedal stroke of my bike ride.


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