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A couple of days ago I watched a documentary Waiting for Superman and it started me thinking about education and what works and what doesn’t.  In the film 5 families struggled to get their kids into tuition free privately run schools that were known to produce great academic results.  It was obvious that the parents put tremendous resources into insuring their children received the best education possible.  One of the parents was a single mom who had been sending her daughter to a private school and paying $500. a month for the tuition but when she lost her job she was unable to continue to send her daughter there.  She put her name into  lottery for one of the slots in the private, tuition free schools.  Scenes were shown or those schools as well as the public schools in the same neighborhood.  The difference was glaringly obvious.  The public schools were dingy and gloomy; the grounds were ill kept.  The atmosphere  reeked of despair and failure, one was across from a prison where many of the former students resided.  On the other hand, the private schools were energized and bright, filled with enthusiasm.  I wondered what was making the difference and after much though I realized that the parents who were interviewed were totally committed to getting the best education for their children and were instilling that value in the home; the teachers were excited and enthusiastic and the administrators were positive and wouldn’t consider any option except success of every student.  I’ve been thinking about why private schools seem to be much more successful in graduating a greater percentage of students who then go on to post secondary schools and acquire the skills to attain their goals.  These young adults go on to lives, for the most part, that are satisfying to them.  Today the NCES reports there has been a steady decline in the drop out rate since 1972 in the US as a whole.  Hispanics are still the most likely to drop out with southwestern and southern states having the highest drop out rates.  The film concluded that it was teachers who were skilled and empowered who made the difference  but I think it’s both families and teachers working together that are the solution.  There is little emphasis in our society today on the joy of learning and educational accomplishments.  It’s all about sports, entertainment and money.  No wonder ghetto children are lured to gangs and drugs.  Dennis Ritchie died around the same time as Steve Jobs but most people never heard of Ritchie the father of C and Unix who made it possible for Jobs to be the co-founder of Apple.  Ritchie was the scientist and Jobs was the marketing guru.  One is glamorized and the other rarely mentioned in mainstream society.  Both are brilliant men who gave us much but we need to value education an accomplishments more broadly and publicly to encourage all children and give them a greater variety of options.

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