A public education guarantee

Hawaii Education - Guaranteed

I recently read “The Price of Paradise: Lucky We Live Hawaii?” (1992), a collection of 38 short essays discussing Hawaii’s underlying problems and challenges, edited by law professor and author Randall W. Roth.

There was only one essay about public education, titled “Public Schools: Why are the test scores of public school children so low?” written by University of Hawaii dean and professor of education John P. Dolly. But for me, it packed a big punch.

Instead of focusing on standardized tests, Dolly declares that we should be asking, “What can students do after they complete a certain level of education?”

“The Department of Education must guarantee that students completing certain grade levels will be certified on the basis of performance rather than meaningless test scores and meaningless grades” (page 213), Dolly proposes.

The idea of “performance-based certification” of education made me think about my own school experience and what I hope that my 6-year old son can learn from me, from our family, and from his school.

Before thinking about the things that schools need to teach children, I think that parents and families need to give children a solid foundation for learning. Here’s a short list of things that I want my child to exemplify:

Character
* Be confident in their strengths and be aware of their weaknesses
* Exercise self-discipline and moderation
* Show courtesy, empathy, and concern for others
* Have a moral compass that shows them right from wrong
* Take responsibility for their actions, words, and choices
* Work with a team, while being able to express and defend their convictions
* Be able to question authority and “experts”
* Can answer the question, “What matters to me?”

Here’s a work-in-progress list of practical, useful things that I think students should be able to do, and that schools should be able to guarantee proficiency, in no particular order:

Manners
* Be polite and confident
* Have good conversational skills
* Use good table manners

Reading, Writing, and Speaking
* Read a novel and discuss major plot elements and themes
* Read and understand instruction manuals and guides
* Write a letter, newspaper article, and written testimony
* Follow assembly and repair directions
* Fill out a questionnaire
* Understand legal contracts
* Write and speak persuasively and intelligently
* Speak comfortably on a telephone, cell phone, or video conference
* Answer questions composedly on a job interview
* Debate politely with well thought-out points

Mathematics, Business, and Science
* Add, subtract, multiply, and divide
* Balance a checkbook and reconcile a bank statement
* Make correct change
* Calculate sales taxes, tips, discounts, sales prices, and interest
* Read and understand a financial statement
* Fill out a tax return
* Understand credit cards and credit scores
* Have experience starting and running a small business
* Aspire to be an entrepreneur, not an employee
* Use the scientific method to conduct experiments

History, Politics, and Law
* Have a basic understanding of world history, American history, and Hawaiian history
* Understand the principles of democracy
* Comprehend American civil rights and liberties 

Computers, Technology, and Information
* Use basic word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and graphic design programs
* Find information quickly and accurately at the library and on the Internet

Arts and Music
* Appreciate music
* Sing or play a musical instrument 

Health, Nutrition, and Fitness
* Cook a basic meal
* Understand a nutrition label
* Know how to grow fruits and vegetables
* Perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
* Treat minor injuries
* Run a mile
* Swim 50 meters (an Olympic-sized swimming pool)

Household
* Sew a button and mend a rip in clothes
* Drive a car
* Change a flat tire
* Jump-start a car

What practical, real-world things do you wish you had learned in school? What do you want your children to learn?

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