Students frozen out of schools, education, maybe hope

February 9, 2011

Does the headline pertain to Dallas ISD’s being closed for cold weather for the fifth day in eight, or does it refer to the situations in Austin, where Gov. Rick Perry insists Texas is better off than the rest of the nation with a $25 billion deficit it can’t close, and all education institutions being given solitary confinement or death penalties?

Gov. Rick Perry, Texas State of the State Address, February 8, 2011

Photo by Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman; Dallas Morning News caption: "Texas Gov. Rick Perry, with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst after delivering the State of the State address Tuesday, said there are 'no sacred cows' in the strapped Texas budget." Reality caption: Texas Emperor Rick Perry gives thumbs up to the lions who will face education's representative, Hypatia, in the Lege Arena fight-to-the-death; Perry promised not to be present for the final moments of the fight.

June 9, 1902: Woodrow Wilson elected president . . .

June 9, 2009

107 years ago today  Woodrow Wilson was unanimously elected president, of Princeton University in New Jersey, on June 9, 1902.

Wilson’s history is remarkable.  He is not the only university president ever to have been elected president of the United States — Dwight Eisenhower and Charles James A. Garfield also served in that capacity (any others?) — but his election to the Princeton post marked an unusual rise in an essentially non-political career that would lead Wilson to the White House through the New Jersey governor’s mansion.

Wilson’s thinking, writing and thinking about how to make colleges and universities more democratic, and therefore more useful as fountains of leadership for the nation, propelled him forward.  This makes him unusually American in the way he worked for national service, and so was called to higher service.

All details courtesy the Library of Congress’s American Memory “Today in History” feature:

  • “On June 9, 1902, Woodrow Wilson was unanimously elected president of Princeton University, a position he held until he resigned in 1910 to run for governor of New Jersey. As university president, Wilson exhibited both the idealistic integrity and the occasional lack of political acumen that marked his tenure as the twenty-eighth president of the United States (1913-21).”
  • “Wilson served on the faculties of Bryn Mawr College and Wesleyan University before joining the Princeton faculty as professor of jurisprudence and political economy in 1890. A popular teacher and respected scholar, Wilson delivered an oration at Princeton’s sesquicentennial celebration (1896) entitled ‘Princeton in the Nation’s Service.’ In this famous speech, he outlined his vision of the university in a democratic nation, calling on institutions of higher learning ‘to illuminate duty by every lesson that can be drawn out of the past.'”
  • “Wilson began a fund-raising campaign to bolster the university corporation. The curriculum guidelines that he developed during his tenure as president of Princeton proved among the most important innovations in the field of higher education. He instituted the now common system of core requirements followed by two years of concentration in a selected area. When he attempted to curtail the influence of the elitist “social clubs,” however, Wilson met with resistance from trustees and potential donors. He believed that the system was smothering the intellectual and moral life of the undergraduates. Opposition from wealthy and powerful alumni further convinced Wilson of the undesirability of exclusiveness and moved him towards a more populist position in his politics.”
  • While attending a recent Lincoln celebration I asked myself if Lincoln would have been as serviceable to the people of this country had he been a college man, and I was obliged to say to myself that he would not. The process to which the college man is subjected does not render him serviceable to the country as a whole. It is for this reason that I have dedicated every power in me to a democratic regeneration.
    The American college must become saturated in the same sympathies as the common people. The colleges of this country must be reconstructed from the top to the bottom. The American people will tolerate nothing that savors of exclusiveness.
    Woodrow Wilson, president of Princeton University, “Address to Alumni,” April 16, 1910.
Woodrow Wilson, circa 1913 (in the Oval Office?) - Library of Congress image

Woodrow Wilson, circa 1913 (in the Oval Office?) - Library of Congress image

Why not treat kindergarteners like college students?

November 18, 2007

Vouchers in Utah have the wooden stake right in the heart. That’s one proposal in one state. More voucher proposals are promised, and the debate continues.

Voucher advocates generally make a plea that colleges have something akin to school vouchers with Pell Grants (Basic Education Opportunity Grants), Stafford Grants, the GI Bill and other federal programs, plus many state programs, which give money to a student to use at a college of the student’s choice.

Why won’t this work for kindergartners, 8th graders and 10th graders? the voucher advocates ask.

The short answer is that we regard college students as adults. Beyond that are several other differences between elementary schools and colleges that we should, perhaps, explore.

Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas has a couple of posts that provide some insights to the issues. In the first one, “We Have Vouchers for Higher Education,” the question is raised about why not let elementary students operate like veterans, and take their government money where they choose to.

In the second, “Vouchers Are About Choice, Not Quality,” we get a glimpse of real life — parents fighting to keep open their neighborhood school, despite there being better performing schools available to take their kids.

We might want to compare systems, at least briefly.

Read the rest of this entry »

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