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Questioning Everything Imperative

Watching high school graduation rates is one good tool to evaluate public education, right?

Maybe. But think about this: One way to keep your school’s graduation rate high is to avoid expelling students who are severe discipline problems. Another way is to keep passing youngsters up through the grades, whether they have learned all they should or not.

By insisting on high graduation rates, we’re doing some kids no favors.

On page five of this section of the paper, you’ll see a commentary by West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee. He thinks WVU is the logical institution to lead a re-evaluation of how we do things in the Mountain State. The goal is to find ways to do them better.

Not to put words in Gee’s mouth, but I think he’s saying this: Question everything.

It’s a slogan adopted, ironically enough, by the generation that won’t question anything that’s politically correct.

Public education would be an excellent place for WVU to start, providing everything about how we do it really is questioned — and changed if the facts merit that.

For example, the practice of “mainstreaming” has been politically correct for many years. What it means is that children once taught in special classes — those with intellectual, emotional and physical challenges, for example — now must be blended into “regular” classrooms. It makes us feel good that we’re treating them “equally” and making them feel at home with non-challenged youngsters.

But are we doing the best we can to teach them or, for that matter, other students?

Think about that, too: A teacher who has to switch gears several times a class period to account for students’ slower or faster learning paces inevitably isn’t helping each of the subgroups as much as possible. That’s why, many years ago, classes often were arranged according to students’ learning abilities.

Some of what we do in schools, including mainstreaming, isn’t up to us. The politically correct crowds in Charleston and Washington order us to do as they say. They can cut off funding for education, even take over school systems, if we don’t do as we’re told.

Much of that isn’t questioned at any level — except, perhaps by classroom teachers — however. Unless we begin rethinking everything, as Gee hints, we’re doomed to continue treading water.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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