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WHAT KIND OF EDUCATION 
DO OUR CHILDREN DESERVE?
By Anthony Romeo & Karen Van Outryve
January 31, 2001

t is a beautiful fact that our State Constitution guarantees every child, regardless of race or financial status, a "sound basic education," and Justice Leland DeGrasse has ruled that New York State has failed to provide this for the children of New York City. He finds the State guilty of discrimination against New York City students and the poor, and has set a September deadline for this to be corrected. 

As parents of a 7-year-old 2nd grader, we passionately believe in public education, and we are alarmed at the concerted effort to underfund and virtually destroy it. Many city schools are in such terrible condition that hard-working, worried parents are tempted to believe anything would be an improvement--that it couldn't be worse. 

But we want parents to know that vouchers and the privatized schools now being proposed for New York City are not the answer. According to the website of one of the biggest advocates of school privatization, "it's too early really to know much about student achievement" in them. Yet the U.S. Department of Education is spending millions to finance their start-up. 

Parents should ask: Do the people now in charge of our city, state and federal governments want public education to succeed? Would they prefer education to be a private concern, not a government responsibility? 

The international periodical The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known describes "how fundamental public education is to the democratic basis of America." It points to the fact that public education began with a law enacted in the colony of Massachusetts in 1647. The renowned educator Horace Mann said of this law: "It is impossible for us adequately to conceive the boldness of the measure, which aimed at universal education through the establishment of free schools. As a fact it had not precedent in the world's history....But time has ratified its soundness." 

Ellen Reiss, Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, writes: "Compulsory education for all children was a saying, after thousands of years, that every child has the right to knowledge." And she continues, "The effort to undo public education is, really, as reactionary as an effort to have this nation ruled again by a king. So why is it now taking place?" 

The answer to this question is in the work of Eli Siegel, the distinguished American educator who founded Aesthetic Realism in 1941. Beginning in 1970, in his Goodbye Profit System lectures, he showed that a system of economics based on the contemptuous seeing of people in terms of how much profit can be made from them no longer works. To maintain it, many people are losing things they fought hard for, including the 8-hour day, health benefits, job security. The attempt to privatize public education is part of this effort. 

The failure of public education can be reversed if those responsible for its administration really want it to succeed. Obviously, a sound education cannot take place in buildings that are falling down. Our children deserve decent, clean schools with heating and air-conditioning that work. They deserve books and supplies--and teachers shouldn't have to purchase these with their own money. 

We also want parents to know that while there is absolutely no evidence that charter schools will improve their children's education, there is an educational method that has been tested for over 20 years and proven effective. Teachers who use the Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method in their New York City public school classrooms have documented its success in seminars, articles, and professional conferences. 

This method is based on Eli Siegel's statement: "The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites." Through it, children see the subjects in the curriculum not just as separate, but related to each other, and to their own lives. They learn, and they also become kinder, more respectful of other students. 

This is the education our children deserve!
   

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