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Del. Ken Plum: We Need Education to Save Our Democracy

by Del. Ken Plum — April 6, 2017 at 10:15 am 24 Comments

This is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

When Thomas Jefferson finished what he considered one of the most significant deeds of his lifetime in writing the Declaration of Independence in the summer of 1776, he returned home to Virginia and set about turning the ideals of the Declaration into steps that could lead to the formation of the first democratic republic.

Among his proposals was that a system of grammar schools be established throughout the state to be topped off by a grand university. He lived to see the University of Virginia become a reality, but his plan for a universal form of education for the masses did not come about in the Commonwealth until 1870 with a Reconstruction-era system of public schools.

The genius of Mr. Jefferson was the recognition that government by the people in a republic could be successful only to the degree that people were educated and that education could make them informed participants in the election of their representatives. Education is as important today, if not more so, as it was in the formation of the union. I am reminded of that fact daily.

The experiences of my early days as a classroom teacher remind me that there is a sharp difference between being schooled and being educated. The emphasis in recent times on the acquisition of facts with Standards of Learning and standardized testing fall short of the educated citizen that we need in today’s world. What facts could I have transmitted to my students that would stay with them to guide them through the rough waters of governance today? A few of course, but more important are the skills they may have learned by being social scientists, historians, and political scientists in my classroom and using the skills of those disciplines to understand and react to the world we face today.

Popular in the mid-1960s, when I was in the classroom, was the discovery approach to teaching the social studies made famous by Amherst College. There were few lectures in the classroom about what happened in history. Rather the students were taught to collect information, weigh evidence, identify points of view, question sources, draw conclusions and “discover” what went on in historic periods of history and why.

Those skills are more important today than ever. The ability to separate among news stories the fake news, alt-news, satire, points of view and evidence is increasingly vital. Hopefully there will come a time when more of those who make the news will be acting in an ethical and responsible manner, motivated to serve with the good of the whole in mind rather than simply personal gain.

With the increasing speed and number of sources of mass communications, skills of the social scientist are more important than ever. Thomas Jefferson was right — schools are critically important to democracy. Even more important is that the students coming out of school have the skills necessary to be functioning members of society that will preserve and strengthen our democratic republic.

  • Heh

    Translation:

    We need more indoctrination to save our Democrat Party because too many people are getting wise to our lies.

    • Jenny Gibbers

      I did not read it that way at all. Actually Ken makes some good points, food for thought, non-political stuff mostly.

      For reasons that i wont explain here my leanings are more towards the federalist side, Madison that is.

      Still, valid points.

      • Heh

        Ken never says anything non-political.

        We all know very well that Ken defines “education” as “instruction in Democratic dogma”, and when he talks about “fake news”, he means “things that contradict Democratic dogma”.

        • Mike M

          You are absolutely correct. The DNC owns the US education establishment and they own the curriculum. For example, in Economics at the undergraduate level and below you are taught Keynesian policy is the key to the macroeconomy and NOTHING else. Ask student to tell you about slavery. They will tell you about the USA experience – oblivious to anything else. Ask about Indian raids on the US frontier, they will tell you the Indians were defending their lands. It is political dogma. It is anti-American. It is anti-Conservative. And it will NEVER have enough money.

          • Willie Reston

            “American students are being taught about slavery in the USA? How dare they be presented with uncomfortable facts! This can only be a leftist conspiracy to control our childrens’ minds!”

            -Mike M

          • drb

            They are being taught that Democrats were the Slave owners and promoters? That Liberals, I mean Democrats, have put chains on the minds of African Americans after “Conservatives” broke the bond of real life chains of slavery?

          • Mike M

            Oh, thanks for putting words in my mouth. Feel better? That’s usually a leftists resort.

          • Guest

            “Stop equating my accusations of anti-Mike-type-person political dogma and un-Mike-ish historical presentment of facts in education to an ‘attempt to control the minds of children’! I would never directly accuse even the hateful and disgusting L-words of such evil methods unless there were undeniable physical evidence, like a giant metal helmet with wires sticking out of it! Also, Feminists, ugh!”

            -Mike M

          • The Constitutionalist

            You’ve finally convinced me that you need to seek professional help.

          • Guest

            Satire seems to rub you the wrong way.

          • The Constitutionalist

            Yep, slavery only existed here in the United States, nowhere else!

          • Willie Reston

            Who’s saying slavery only existed in the US? What part of my comment led you to believe that was what I was saying? And are you implying that because other societies have allowed slavery that that somehow makes slavery in the USA less bad? Because it sure sounds like that’s what you’re implying.

          • The Constitutionalist

            In K-12, almost no time is spent on slavery anywhere but the USA. It doesn’t really matter if something happened somewhere else if no one knows about it. The simple truth is, throughout the educational process of our children, they are being taught, whether purposefully or not, that slavery was unique to the United States. It harbors a negative view of our country in the present — where slavery does still exist, albeit it is no longer part of our every day society. Unfortunately, those are chains we just can’t shed.

            No one said slavery wasn’t bad or less bad. What I will say, is that what is bad is decided by the society at the time. With the separation of church and state, there is no guiding moral principal of right and wrong except what the society from that time dictates.

            Wrong as it is today, the most powerful nations on Earth, from beginning to end, were built on the backs of slaves. African Americans are still widely slaves today, but their slave drivers today are their elected democrat politicians.

            Call me a racist.

          • Mike M

            So, you have to actually misquote me to make your point? You are literally putting words in my mouth. Pathetic.

          • Jenny Gibbers

            Heh Mike

            My aunt likes cheese, no arguing.

    • Willie Reston

      Republicans lie more than anybody. “Vote for us, we stand up the average Joe like you!” **immediately appoint unqualified billionaire donors to cabinet posts, strip consumer protection regulations, strip environmental protections in the name of corporate gains, try to take health care from tens of millions, give tax cuts that almost exclusively favor the top 20%**

      • Mike M

        Psst! Just because one Party does something awful does not mean the other is wonderful. Think about why you react in that way. My assessment – the DNC has indoctrinated you into believing there is the DNC and the GOP, and nothing else.

        • Willie Reston

          Where in my statement did I say that Democrats don’t lie? I just said Republicans are the worst offenders, which is unequivocally true. I don’t give two craps about the DNC. The GOP, on the other hand, truly frightens me.

          • drb

            So you think Democrats are less lairs than Repubs? Why are you so frightened by GOP? Really want to hear an honest intelligent answer. So take your time responding.

          • Mike M

            You have been programmed.

          • Heh

            I just said Republicans are the worst offenders, which is unequivocally true.

            LOL if that’s what you need to think in order to keep voting Democrat, enjoy your delusions.

          • Willie Reston

            Honest question: do you guys even bother watching the news? Do you not hear the stupendous amount of BS coming from the GOP and especially the White House? I feel sorry that you guys have been so brainwashed by their low-brow populist sound byte campaign promises that you can no longer see even the most obvious BS. Yes, I know Democrats lie, but at least they speak the truth about half the time.

      • The Constitutionalist

        What about Honest Abe?

  • drb

    Education is a great thing. Unfortunately the teachers unions has control of most of that in this country not just the State. That is why home schooling is attacked by Liberals throughout the State.

    Ken wishes to teach kids to think via the “discovery approach”. It is unfortunate that he has not discovered the “Constitutional Approach”. This is where we learn what the Constitution allows the Feds and States to do and leaves the rest to the individual citizen. The Constitution states literally what powers and what specific limitations the government has. Why does the Liberals want the “Courts” to legislate for the bench?
    Answer: Because they do not to take responsibility for their ideas and promotions.

    This is why Ken will not promote tax increases to fulfill what he supports. (ie.. Welfare, Medicare, Medicaid ect..) He wants someone else to take responsibility. Unless it is Gun Control or Abortion. For some reason he thinks killing children and selling their body parts and disarming law abiding citizens are winning issues.

    As for the fake News Ken speaks of he is right in that we see daily the Fake News of Russian interference and real news of Democrat “wire taping” being supplanted. The youth are bombard by this fake news daily. I for one have seen the rise of information freedom that helps them and do not fear it like Ken does.

    What we see that Ken likes is the failed Socialist agenda being promoted while attacking basic success of Capitalism. All for the reason ” to serve with the good of the whole in mind rather than simply personal gain.” He promotes this for reasons that escapes me. I know he is a “Socialist” but he says he is educated and that would mean he sees it fails every time it is tried. Perhaps he is not as educated as he thinks.

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