"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson's belief that an educated society is our first, and best, defense against a tyrannical government inspired the first public education system in history. And the idea that a government should provide all of its citizens a basic education was, at the time, an idea nearly as radical as the notion of a freely elected government.
Despite the noble ideas that inspired our public education system, today's schools are struggling to meet the demands of a modern society. Graduation rates continue to decline. Our children's reading and math skills lag behind those of children from other industrialized nations. And government leaders appear unable to enact a plan for solving the many problems confronting school children today.
My own recent experience with the public school system proved all but disastrous. Out of a concern for meeting national reading standards, schools today begin teaching reading skills in kindergarten. My son was uninterested in learning how to read, suffered from dyslexia, and quickly fell behind other students in his class.
To make a long story short, the efforts of the school served only to make my child feel inadequate and resentful. I had to pull my son out of the public school system and find a more flexible curriculum that allowed him the time and freedom to develop the skills he needs to be an active member of society.
What my son required was not an education aimed at meeting the needs of the school - i.e. to meet national standards. What he needed was an education designed to meet his needs.
With the demands placed on public schools today and the politics surrounding education policy, few public schools exist - if any - that can create a holistic curriculum designed to meet the educational, emotional, and social needs of every child. However, some educators are now creating schools and learning environments with curricula flexible enough to meet the unique demands of all their students.