I have to give the Missoulian credit for its often absolutely crazy editorial stances about education. Today, they criticize the deal to reduce or eliminate the amount of soda sold in public schools. The criticism is not so much about the deal, but the supposed diversion from the real mission of schools-education. They boldly write:
OK, well, that last bit about improved learning may not be true. It’s just that if everyone were as concerned about what kids learn as what they eat and weigh, perhaps we’d see real progress in education. Having effectively countered the dreaded menace of soda pop, parents, educators and social activists should have little stopping them from attending to other educational priorities – such as education.
I, for one, am glad they’ve had the courage to say it. I know that I haven’t taught one moment since the discussion about soft drinks has begun, and until the deal is implemented in my school, I won’t start again. In fact, every time there is a national discussion of educational policy in America, most of us just shut down our classrooms to think about the ramifications of the policy.
At the end of the piece, the Missoulian offers this insight:
The ruckus over soda pop, nutritional standards of school lunches and obesity can be lumped in with a vast array of school-based social work – from AIDS awareness to anti-drug campaigns to matters of procreation – that has only the most tangential connection with education yet increasingly fills the short school day and short school year.
And here is where we get to the real purpose of the editorial, another attack on education. See, schools shouldn’t teach things like drug education, even though the Missoulian claims that 75 per cent of federal prosecutions in the state are meth related, AIDS awareness and prevention, even though it doesn’t dirsupt the curriculum, but enhances it and reduce AIDS, or sex, even though abstinence only programs lead to increased pregnancy and STDS.
While the editors at the Missoulian would like to pretend that education happens in the same cultural environment as 1950s TV shows, ‘reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic just aren’t going to cut it any more. Schools are not only forced to confront social issues; they are often the best place to deal with them. Unlike editorial writers and critics of education, schools can’t just close their eyes and pretend these issues will solve themselves. Creative and effective teachers aren’t distracted by issues like AIDS or soda; they can use these critical issues to enhance their lessons. We should applaud education that is relevant to the lives of our students, not condemn it.
Update: Touchstone’s got a take on the editorial as well.