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Education Aims

May 31, 1987

This letter is in response to "Plan For Tough Courses Splits School Board," (May 20) by David Smollar.

When considering the education of our children, we must think as our parents did: How can we provide them with more opportunities than we had ourselves? We're not talking about bigger houses or nicer cars here, but a better quality of life.

In the article, the debate focused on high school courses that would supposedly prepare the students for a college curriculum. But are tougher standards and more difficult classes the issue, or should we reconsider what it is we want our children's education to achieve?

There have been recent studies by educators and psychologists that suggest that the problem with the American educational system is its focus. We are training our children how to succeed in the world of material goals, not how to achieve a thriving social, economic and cultural environment. The philosophy behind getting these children to college isn't to have them be educated so much as to train them how to make money.

The hollowness of such a philosophy cannot help but discourage teachers, educators and students. The lack of motivation on the part of the students isn't surprising when they think that the valuable aspect of school comes only when it provides a paycheck. Time is money is what we have taught them, and what we show them as well. "He or she with the most toys wins."

I have spent some time volunteering in the classroom. I have seen what the "tougher" curriculum and mandatory homework have achieved with these young children, and it's not very encouraging. Already there is boredom, burnout and a sense that school is where you have to be, like a job, not where you want to be.

The teachers are caught in an impossible position. They have to push and teach the more rigorous curriculum with the notion that to test well on the standardized tests is what counts. Meanwhile, the teachers have to attend to the personal and developmental aspects of these children's education. They are to do this with little help either from the school system or from the parents at home. Is it any wonder that the children who have reached high school question the value of an education that is measured by test scores and salary possibilities?

There is no reason why we can't institute a more rigorous curriculum and turn out more educated children.

First, we must reconsider what the value of education is in our society and culture. We must insure that our children recognize the value as being the means to a happier and better life, allowing for a broader outlook and focus, a better understanding of the world and of our place in it. When we can let them realize how important knowledge is for their personal happiness and how important it is for the future of our country and our world, then perhaps the tougher courses will be sought after, and the rewards of the rigorous curriculum will be more than a test score or a paycheck.

MARIANNE ROSS BLACKMAR

San Diego

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