- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 11, 2004

What if education operated outside the box? Imagine the endless possibilities of a school functioning outside the box.

Much of the stunted creativity teachers forget they have tucked away somewhere would bloom. Is it too much to envision? The power of idea starts to percolate and pretty soon, well … .

What if there were 12-month school years and students had core academic classes for half the day and spent the other half-day in study hall, the library and “encore” classes where they could dabble in performing arts, music, drawing, painting, sculpting, drafting, cartooning, or physically challenging themselves with sports or exercise that normally gets just a brief introduction in a typical physical education class?

What if students could be promoted to the next academic level at their own rate, not as predetermined by a school calendar based on the growing season? Some students could attain much higher academic excellence. Others would fall further and further behind their peers, which would motivate them to work harder. Those forging ahead would get more personal autonomy and freedom. Some would graduate from high school with accumulated college credits, alleviating college costs.

What if teachers actually had time to lesson-plan and grade papers during the day, so when they go home they are able to physically challenge themselves, cook a decent meal, or spend time with their families without worrying how much school work they have to do? Teachers could keep their rooms clean, change their bulletin boards, and make their classroom environments much more inviting.

Teachers could become experts in their academic areas because there would be more time to read the newspaper, take extra courses, and read additional books on the material they teach. They would have time to eat lunch with their peers and talk about current events, instead of bemoaning misbehaving pupils and uninvolved parents who are too stressed out or busy to coerce their children to do anything more than watch TV when they get home at night.

Uh-oh, I can feel my heart racing. I can’t stop thinking about the kind of students who would leave our educational institutions in an academic world unconstrained by traditional fixtures like unions, federal and state tax dollars or politically correct texts and curriculum. The excitement is too much. I have to rein myself in. There now, calm down. It’s alright. But it could happen, it really could.

NANCY SALVATO

Ms. Salvato is a research associate with Americans for Limited Government and an experienced educator.

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