Friday, January 28, 2011

We the People...

EduCon 2.3 pre-events kicked off this morning in snowy Philadelphia.  Despite a second consecutive snow day for students, many were out in force at the Science Leadership Academy to help out and provide guided tours.  The school building itself is nondescript located among the many business blocks south of the city center, but it doesn't take long to get an impression from SLA students that it definitely is a place for learning. I was impressed with adult-like conversations by the students and explanations about what they see as to the similarities and differences between their school and others. They emphasized the rigor in their classrooms but also talked about the use of technology and social networking as tools for learning. You could sense from their enthusiasm that SLA is definitely a unique school.

It wasn't lost on me either that we are meeting at a school devoted to creative and innovative ways of learning, in the city where 204 years ago 55 delegates from the several states met to hammer out a creative and innovative form of government. Just a mile away from SLA stands Independence Hall, where George Washington presided over a hot summer of debate around what a "government of the people" should look like.  Interestingly, education was not part of these debates nor is it referred to in any part of our Constitution.  According to the Cato Institute,

...the U.S. Constitution grants no authority over education to the federal government. Education is not mentioned in the Constitution of the United States, and for good reason. The Founders wanted most aspects of life managed by those who were closest to them, either by state or local government or by families, businesses, and other elements of civil society. Certainly, they saw no role for the federal government in education. ~ David Boaz

He went on to note that the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed this position in 1973 and that the reason the founders purposely left out a role for the federal government was their fear of "the concentration of power."  

Public education must change to meet the learning needs of 21st century students and institutions such as the Science Learning Academy are certainly leading the way. However, the overarching question on my mind as I visit this city where the great American experiment began, is whether or not the expanding intrusion of our national government in the area of education will in the long run help or hinder the right kind of reform?