David Lentini of Maine writes in response to another reader on the purpose of schooling in a democratic society:



I like your idea. But I suspect that most states will have language similar to MO and ME. In fact, I would argue, that’s one of the major problems we have today—that we’ve forgotten the basic role of schools in maintaining our democracy, and we’ve become distracted with ideas of using the schools to prepare a “workforce” or create a social utopia (or both). The shift from the former to the latter was a hallmark of the Progressive Era.


Returning to the view that schools serve first to educate our children for their future roles as citizens, and not workers and consumers or “role players” in some social model, would greatly focus the curriculum on developing the intellectual faculties of the students and the attention of the parents.


Democracies require a commitment to three main qualities: equality, justice, and truth. Each of these is best supported by an education that emphasizes the development of observation, thinking, and expression. These in turn would require a focus on the arts, reading, and writing. In short, we would return to the philosophy that runs the very best private schools—the ones the élites like Bill Gates and Arne Duncan send their kids.


It would also require a commitment to end poverty, the single biggest factor in student achievement.


We would stop looking for magical solutions to avoid the poverty problem. We would stop using public education as a dumping ground for useless and superfluous technologies. We would finally grow up and stop looking for “Superman”. We would build our society on developing the most precious resources we have—our children’s intellects.