New year brings change, but public education remains the foundation
Kentucky School Advocate
By Mike Armstrong
KSBA Executive Director
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
“Closing Time” by Semisonic, 1998
What with the blink of an eye, 2016 is here. Two thousand-sixteen. MMXVI. This year is a leap year (Happy birthday, you February 29th babies), the 16th year of the 3rd millennium, the 16th year of the 21st century and the 7th year of the 2010s decade. Likewise, it is the year 2560 on the Buddhist calendar; year 4713 – the year of the Red Monkey – on the Chinese calendar; and Hebrew calendar year(s) 5776-5777.
The United Nations predicts the world population will reach 7.3 billion in 2016; Kentucky, with our 4.5 million citizens, makes up 0.0618 percent of the world’s population. And while the U.S. is the third most-populous country, behind China and India, our 2016 projected population of 325 million will be only 4.45 percent of the world’s population. Kentucky’s 2016 population will be 1.4 percent of the U.S. population.
So our plate is full – here it is January 2016 and we know from a variety of sources that a number of efforts are afoot to move Kentucky’s public education into uncharted waters. Regardless of motive, it is imperative that we enter each and every conversation about public education confident about our message, our data and our intent.
Beginning with the establishment of the Boston Latin School in 1635, the first and oldest public school in the U.S., public education has been the continuous thread that weaves together the people of this Commonwealth and the population of all of our 50 states. It’s been a bulwark that endured during wars, demonstrations and protests; a constant that empowered generation after generation to build on what was last discovered and then use those newfound facts to inspire and enable the next generation to nurture, to cultivate and grow the ever-expanding tree of knowledge.
As John Adams shared in 1785, “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.” While John Adams might be somewhat flummoxed by the shape and size of today’s school buildings – buildings now designed to enhance both teaching and learning across every square foot of the school building – I’m confident that his zeal and passion to educate “the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it” would not be diminished.
Let us never doubt that public education is one of the foundational elements unique to this country and this Commonwealth. Its rightful place in the past, the present and the future is well deserving of our time and attention to keep it so!
“There is a place in America to take a stand: it is public education. It is the underpinning of our cultural and political system. It is the great common ground. Public education after all is the engine that moves us as a society toward a common destiny. ... It is in public education that the American dream begins to take shape.” Tom Brokaw