Opinion

Education must live up to society’s demands

By Susan Kovalik, Think About It

I have appreciated the opportunity to share my views based on my experiences in the field of life these past eight months.

Most of the columns focused on education, as I am committed to supporting highly effective teaching and relevant learning for students in our democratic society.

We ask much of our teachers and expect them to be all things to all students. The reality is that if any of our employers in our chosen field demanded of us as much we do of teachers, we would expect a minimum of $100,000 a year in salary alone.

Recently, I came across this article written by Carolyn Warner, Arizona’s superintendent of schools, who served three consecutive terms from 1974-1986. Her vantage point in serving her very diverse state is documented in her litany below.

As you read this list, realize that it is incomplete. We would now be adding test preparation for the standardized tests, increased focus on literacy, character education, statewide standards and benchmarks, providing classes for autistic children and programs for students who are learning English. In Federal Way schools, there are 105 different languages spoken by students.

Our high schools offer highly academic programs, career and technical preparation, global studies and economics. There are marching bands, jazz bands, choral groups, strings groups, musical theater and public speaking. There are swim teams, soccer teams, football, baseball and track. Truly, in this small district, there is something for everyone.

We have moved from a comprehensive high school where everyone took the same program to multidimensional opportunities. It is the responsibility of the students to choose wisely and celebrate that the public is paying for their preparation for life — and the possibilities are before them.

Think about it.

The Litany

As summarized by former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Carolyn Warner, public schools in America today are expected to:

“Teach good nutrition habits … train students in pulmonary-coronary resuscitation … give specialized instruction for the hard of hearing, the blind and the neurologically impaired … treat the emotionally disturbed … train the mentally retarded … teach the gifted … do eye testing … give inoculations … teach first aid procedures … provide pregnancy counseling … assist in disease prevention … inculcate morals, ethics and values … stress drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse … help students develop political know-how … develop civic responsibility … provide sex education … rebuild the Statue of Liberty … maintain birth information and age certification data … provide instruction in good health care … teach driver training … provide civil rights and racial tolerance … foster integration … teach the principles of free enterprise … assist in career planning … provide career information … detect and report child abuse … teach telephone manners and etiquette … instruct in speed reading … eradicate head lice, scabies and other diseases … assist in charity fund-raising … provide vocational training … build economic awareness … serve hot lunches and breakfasts … dispense surplus milk … do job placement … stress bicycle safety and pedestrian safety … promote physical fitness … assist bilingual language development … counsel delinquents … foster metric education … provide transportation … teach consumer education … counsel students with problems … follow due process procedures … protect student privacy … provide computer literacy … teach humaneness and individual responsibility …eliminate sex discrimination … assist in bladder control … develop an appreciation of other people and other cultures … promote the uses of information … develop the ability to reason … build patriotism … and loyalty to the ideals of democracy … promote an understanding of the heritage of our country … build respect for the worth and dignity of the individual … develop skills for an entry into a specific field … teach management of money, property and resources … provide income tax counseling … develop curiosity and thirst for learning … develop skills in the use of leisure time … teach pride in work … build a feeling of self-worth, or self-respect … avoid religion — and teach reading, writing and arithmetic.”

And, Mrs. Warner adds, this is still only a partial listing of responsibilities.

Susan J. Kovalik is an educator, international consultant and author in Federal Way. She is founder of The Center for Effective Learning in Federal Way: skovalik@kovalik.com.

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