Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2015
Many of the ideas and recommendations I have offered in this book are not new in themselves, but examining them in light of current conditions may encourage a renewal – a richer, brighter vision for our high schools. The hope is to produce better adults, a better country, a better world. In his work on excellence, John Gardner suggested that a richer view of education might encourage this hope: “We should be painting a vastly greater mural on a vastly more spacious wall. What we are trying to do is nothing less than to build a greater and more creative civilization.”
One important factor in building a better world is the education of people who will be thoughtful and willing to work in a participatory democracy. I have suggested that a four-year sequence of social studies courses be implemented and that its classes be carefully composed of students from all classes and programs. We often hear complaints from well-educated critics that our society is divided not only into economic classes but also into social-thought classes. It seems almost impossible for people from these two opposing groups to engage in dialogue. If we are to achieve constructive political dialogue in our adult society, that dialogue must start earlier; high school students should have regular opportunities to study and discuss controversial issues with their teachers and one another. Providing such opportunities will not be easy because the introduction of controversial issues requires the very critical competence we are trying to induce. That means that we must start with the preparation of teachers as highly competent critical thinkers.
I have suggested that the education of teachers should integrate preparation in the discipline they will teach with comprehensive preparation in the subject matter of education itself. Further, teachers should continue to study and analyze the history of their profession, particularly its central concepts and efforts at reform.