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Topic: National Congress on Public Education: Principles Statement
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
National Congress on Public Education: Principles Statement
Posted: Oct 2, 1998 12:05 AM
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[Note: The first National Congress on Public Education was held at the
Hyatt Hotel in Crystal City, VA (next to Washington, D.C.), September
11-13, 1998. The Congress developed the following Declaration of Principles
which I am sending, for your information. It was at this meeting that Mr.
Ron Wolk gave the talk that I shared with you recently.]



The first National Congress for Public Education, meeting in Washington, D.
C. in September, 1998, vigorously affirms that public schools are essential
to the health of our democratic society. To
advance our nation's commitment to public education, the participants
endorse the principles set forth in the accompanying list.


Public education has deep roots in our nation's past. James Madison,
"Father of the Constitution" and architect of the Bill of Rights, elegantly
described the link between the education of citizens and our system of
government in an 1822 letter: "A popular Government, without popular
information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or
a Tragedy; perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: and a
people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the
power which knowledge gives." Madison envisioned a future where the
"education needed for the common purposes of life would be diffused"
through the entire Society.

Our country developed public education over the course of a century and a
half, not only to provide each and every citizen a quality education to
meet their individual needs and purposes, but in order to ensure a more
cohesive society and a democratic form of government. Public education
should promote an understanding of the diversity among us, and the unity
that flowers only through honoring that diversity. Furthermore, the health
of our democratic republic depends upon public
schools fostering fundamental constitutional values--justice, freedom, and
equality. As James Madison expressed it, "What can be more edifying or
more seasonable, than that of Liberty & Learning, each leaning on the other
for their mutual & surest support?"

The following principles reflect our intent to promote these values, as we
work to support and strengthen public education.

September, 1998


1. Effective public schools are essential if our nation is to maintain a
vibrant democracy, a strong community, a civil society, and a prosperous

2. Strong public schools require sufficient resources, equitably distributed.

3. Effective public schools prepare all students for the responsibilities
of citizenship, as well as for college and employment.

4. All publicly supported schools must be equally accountable to the
public and open to all students.

5. Genuine improvement in public schools is essential. Substantial
improvement will require open, deliberative processes and the exploration
of a range of new possibilities.

6. The foundations of public schools must be respect for children as
learners, respect for teachers as professionals, respect for parents as
major stakeholders in education, and responsibility to the public for
perpetuating the ideals and values of our democratic form of government.

7. National, state, and local efforts to improve the public schools must
go hand in hand with efforts to improve the social, economic, and physical
health of the communities they reflect and serve, since the quality of each
depends upon the quality of the other.

September, 1998

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618)453-4244
Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)

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