The Wawascene was created by Dr. Mark Stock, former Superintendent of the Wawasee Community School Corporation. Due to its local popularity, Dr. Stock has left the blog site to future Wawasee administrators.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Public Schools as National Infrastructure

I am a strong supporter of public schools. Granted, I have never worked in a bad one yet, so I am biased. I am optimistic about public schools, as long as politicians back off and allow us time to continue our progress. If they trash the public system, then we are headed to a segregated society once again, and we will sit and wait for the next Brown vs. Board of Education lawsuit. It won't be long. Inequities are growing as we speak - and they may not be where you think.

Separate but equal ends up inherently unequal.

I want to propose a new way of looking at public education, especially for all those who are looking at vouchers and privatization of schools with public tax money.

Try to look at public schools as national infrastructure. Picture the national highway system. The highway system is critical to the success of our nation as products and goods travel the nation daily providing "just-in-time" delivery in a massive network that is the envy of the world. Any business large or small, any individual rich or poor, can access our highway network and travel as they desire. It is built by a combination of federal, state and local dollars and is maintained by federal, state and local employees. There are state and national specifications that help provide quality roadways with mostly standard materials and dimensions. The highway system is a critical part of our country's infrastructure. It is impossible to picture how America would work without a coordinated, standard and uniform roadway system. The first attack point of any military operation is to attack the infrastructure of your country's roadway system.

America considers them so important, that we have decided to provide government oversight, government funding and government support to keep them operational. Are they perfect? No. But we work to improve them. And...When we do turn them over to independent contractors and private firms, they are held to the same standards and accountability as the government employees so that the quality of the "network" is high enough to maintain high and similar standards throughout the highway system. Won't do much good for the highway to disappear at the state line! Try to imagine a private system of roadways that only allows access to those with certain vehicles, or certain religious beliefs or certain wealth or status. Public transportation highway systems are accessed by all without discrimination.

Now, think of public education as a massive network across America that provides access to knowledge, information and skill development to all communities, large and small, rich or poor. It is the information highway. It is a network that combines federal, state and local efforts with fairly standard specifications for curriculum and standards across America. This coordinated, standard and fairly uniform system provides access points for every American to have a chance at the American dream.

All of our important infrastructures are supervised with public and governmental standards. Highways, railways, airlines and the military. All supported in some measure by the public tax dollar. These infrastructures have created and supported a country that is the greatest ever known. Wealth and a standard of living unprecedented in the history of the world.

I fear that through privatization and vouchers, some state and national politicians intend to break it up for two main reasons. One, their reported dislike of the NEA, and two, the selfish notion that the only child that matters is their own.

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