Thursday, December 13, 2007

Between the Lines Editorial

The column below was prepared by Barbara Fox for the October 31, 2007 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper.

Last week's coverage of teenagers and education struck some nerves. Euna Kwon Brossman's article on Etta Kralovec, author of "The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning," prompted teeth gnashing by one of our colleagues. "I should have written that book," she said. "Thirty years ago I thought homework was adults taking revenge on children."

Another article, an excerpt from Win Straube's most recent book, on the current state of education, brought phone calls and E-mails to the Pennington-based businessman, who is currently in Hawaii. In his book, "QGE=A," Straube maintains that what he calls Quality Generic Education will result in better education today and tomorrow, at less cost. Today's schools, he writes, are often like factories, continuing to mimic an outdated industrial worker organization.

Albert Stark, of the Stark & Stark law firm on Lenox Drive, writes to say that Trenton is "the perfect example of the malady that Win Straube describes." He refers to the case where administrators forged documents and gave ninth graders passing grades for courses that were not taught. "Only when the students were about to graduate was the fraud discovered."

"Win is espousing an approach to education that he experienced. What it does not address, to my satisfaction, is the social fabric that is torn in the economically impoverished home, often caught in a morass of a drug-infested and crime-infested neighborhood.

"Interestingly enough," continues Stark, "the approach that understands the challenge and mends the fabric is being used by George Pruitt at Thomas Edison College.

"Where Win has hit the nail on the head is his espousal of market research being used to define and address the needs of students. This is a very different focus from that being used in our nation's schools and universities today, that is, an approach that researches the needs of the teachers and professors. That focus leads to a curriculum that attracts students to the teachers' and professors' classrooms and thus, to the school.

"Win's thesis is endemic to teachers' unions and to entrenched administrators. Perhaps that's why his book is so darn important," writes Stark.

It turns out that Straube and Kralovec often agree. Kralovec inveighs against homework because it "robs families of valuable time together, time that would be better spent bonding in other ways. Time at home should be designed by parents and should include things like cultural traditions and religious traditions. Homework interferes with the educational agenda that should be set by parents for their own children."

Similarly, Straube wants parents to be the most important teachers for their children, so they "can pass their values and world views to their offspring, and enjoy with them the process of learning."

Straube invites others who want to weigh in on the state of education to contribute to