The Golden Days of Public Education — NOT!

By Bill Henk –  Trust me, my appreciation for an important and timely message, when beautifully rendered, runs deep.

As a writer, I almost always aspire to create text that meets those high standards — from scholarly papers to annual reports to op-ed pieces to blog posts, and even most e-mails for goodness sakes.  But although I’d like to think otherwise, I rarely if ever hit those high water marks.

Even so, I’ll continue to long for a day when something I write absolutely blows readers away.  Think perfection or the closest thing to it — a scintillating and vital topic portrayed in crystal clear prose that flows beautifully and whose arguments are razor-sharp, intellectually satisfying, insightful, poignant, and compelling.

In the meantime, since it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever get anything even nearly that marvelous from me, I’ll direct you instead to an on-line essay that comes very close in my estimation.  It’s one I just read the other day.  And yes, it blew me away.

Before I share it, though, bear with my pedestrian writing just long enough for me to give you some background.

My New Hero

The piece was written by an educational consultant named Jamie Vollmer.  Mr. Vollmer was a very successful businessman who took a very dim view of schools and teachers, but underwent a profound transformation and now champions public education. This particular  article debunks the myth that schools today are much worse than they used to be in the so-called golden days of American education, when many of today’s harshest critics walked school hallways themselves.

Educators will warm to Vollmer’s concept of “Nostesia,” a blending of nostalgia and amnesia that drives misconceptions about schools of yesteryear.  Be prepared to learn how dropout rates, the nature of jobs, college remediation,  cultural illiteracy and television portrayals of the past and present actually compare.

Let me leave you with a quote that pretty much sums it up, then be sure to read the article itself:

There is no doubt that America’s schools need to change to better serve the needs of the time, but not by going backwards. The vast majority of public schools are doing a better job now of educating America’s youth than they have ever done before.”


Reader Note:  My thanks to Jeannie Fenceroy, Senior Program Officer at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, for sharing this special article with me in the first place.

2 Responses to “The Golden Days of Public Education — NOT!”

  1. 1 Mary Smith October 30, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Excellent article!!!!


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