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  • A Thanksgiving TOP 10 for Arizona public schools

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    "A Thanksgiving TOP 10 for Arizona public schools"
    by Dick Foreman
    I don’t know about you, but I always find comfort in the wisdom of great minds, especially our Country’s Founding Fathers.  Even if you don’t agree, we should consider the sources and their inspirations, rather than simply casting adrift what we do not agree with and just being done with it. 
    To celebrate this Thanksgiving season, I have TEN REASONS to thank our public school system, inspired by the wisdom and words of some of history’s greatest minds.
    Thanks # 1:  I give thanks for being reminded who Americans are; one nation, undivided and whole.
    “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people…they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of liberty.” 
    Thomas Jefferson clearly saw American society through a larger lens, absent segregated factions.  For me, this vision remains the centerpiece of what I am thankful for in our public schools.  
    Thanks # 2:  I give thanks that Arizona students continue to improve their academic achievement.

    “I consider knowledge to be the soul of the republic, and as the weak and the wicked are generally in alliance, as much care should be taken to diminish the number of the former as the latter.” 
    Today, I am indeed thankful that we continue to show improvement in student achievement, and in some small fashion, Arizona outpaces much of the nation in these improvements.  John Jay would have had it no other way and there simply is no excusing ignorance.  As Mark Twain also said, “close a school, build a prison.” 
    Thanks # 3:  I give thanks for our public education system that really is second to none.
    “Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the greatest equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the societal machinery.” 
    And thus, Horace Mann introduced the Prussian system of education to the United States in 1852.  Soon thereafter, major industrialists such as John Jacob Astor recognized the public education system as the ideal career pathway to manufacturing (which was very much in his interest) so long as the system was free to all, publicly funded, and featured grade-level achievement with qualified, well-trained teachers.  That was the magic of Prussia, and that was the core direction for American education renewal that endures to this day.  I hear many people talk about how other countries have surpassed the American education system.  But to me, I'd rather be in school here than in any other system of education on the planet earth because we have the "great equalizer" at the core of every neighborhood across our land.  Now, shall we keep it that way or not?
    Thanks # 4:  I give thanks for the opportunity of literacy.
    “If truth be not diffused, error will be.” 
    What Daniel Webster said in these few words may be the greatest gift any system could provide any citizen of any country – literacy.  Discernment is not a genetic gift, it is achieved through dynamic teaching.
    Thanks # 5:  I give thanks for the diversity of our public schools.
    “Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.” 
    The profound inclusiveness of public education was not just a fascination with Thomas Jefferson; it was his core belief.  Thank you, public educators!

    Thanks # 6:  I give thanks to those who invest in public education as recently witnessed when over 80% of Arizona school bonds and overrides passed statewide.
    “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it.” 
    Some would argue that Americans have become obsessed with spending money, except for their public schools!  Nothing about the holiday season screams louder than a Black Friday sale, right?  But understanding that public educational needs are not just expenses, but a sacred responsibility for all Americans to invest in was well understood by John Adams.  The core principle here is that this money was invested in an institution, the public education system, that would not be permitted to fail, and certainly not on the backs of children who had no choice. 
    Thanks # 7:  I give thanks to our teachers. 
    "The man (or woman) who can make hard things easy is the educator." 
    So, here's an optional credit assignment.  Please read "Nature" by Ralph Waldo Emerson this holiday season, and then you, too, can define "transcendentalism" and impress your friends.  But taking this specific acknowledgement of our teachers to the present day, I also appreciate the capitalist edge to this concept provided by former Chrysler Motors Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Lee Iacocca:  "In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less." 
    Thanks # 8:  I give thanks for educating the whole child, including the extracurricular opportunities we are so blessed with in Arizona.
    "When I was a teenager, I began to settle into school because I'd discovered the extracurricular activities that interested me – music and theater." 
    Just over one hundred years prior to this, it was observed, "The self-taught man seldom knows anything accurately, and he does not know a tenth as much as he could have known if he had worked under a teacher.”  I doubt many observers would link Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman to Mark Twain, but there, I just did.  And for good reason.
    Thanks # 9:  I give thanks to teachers who do more than plan lessons, they continually develop in their profession, whether funded or not; they just do.
    "My badge says 'Teacher' because Multi-tasking, Child-loving, and Educational Genius is not an actual job title."  
    If you've never read the "Classroom Caboodle" by Betsy Weigle you might give it a try to gain some sense of the real, continuing developmental challenges faced by the classroom teacher.
    Thanks # 10:  I give thanks that changes to our public education system in Arizona are slow to develop.
    "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." 
    Yes, my favorite poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, is again the source.  Functionally, the checks and balances of our democracy tend to defy sudden and potentially disruptive change that has not been embraced by the public as a whole. 
    Will we ever find consensus as we move forward in Arizona's public education journey?  Of course, we will.  There is no durable change that can defy the building of consensus, and on behalf of this great focus of the Arizona Business and Education Coalition, I wish you all a safe, peaceful and fulfilling Thanksgiving.
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