Like a growing number of American families, my wife and I homeschool our young children. Why? A number of reasons, primarily the fact that studies show homeschooled kids are better-educated, better-socialized, and better-behaved than public schoolchildren. But our initial motivation was the conviction that the current American educational system is hopelessly broken, from pre-K all the way through college graduation. As every conservative knows, the leftist death grip on our schools has largely replaced education with indoctrination.
But we are fortunate; not every concerned family is in a position to homeschool, and simply abandoning our public schools to their ugly, Progressive fate is a surrender, not a solution. How then, do we reclaim American education so that all our children can be put back on track to a more prosperous, civically literate, empowered future? That is the theme of an important new book from Templeton Press titled, How to Educate an American: The Conservative Vision For Tomorrow’s Schools, a collection of essays from over twenty stellar contributors ranging from William J. Bennett and Mona Charen to Heather Mac Donald and Arthur C. Brooks, edited by Michael J. Petrilli and Chester E. Finn, Jr.
Petrilli is president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, executive editor of Education Next, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow for the Education Commission of the States. Finn is Distinguished Senior Fellow and President Emeritus of the Fordham Institute and a Senior Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution. In other words, they know this field, and for this volume they sought out, not fellow policy wonks, but “big thinkers – public intellectuals and scholars whose work includes education but doesn’t focus on policy prescriptions.” This makes for a highly readable and more wide-ranging collection of creative answers to the questions of where America is headed and the role education should play in getting us there.
In their conclusion, Petrilli and Finn argue that three aspects of education should be emphasized in the years to come: preparing young people for informed citizenship; restoring character, virtue, and morality at the head of the education table; and fashioning an education system that confers dignity, respect, and opportunity upon every youngster, including those who don’t go to college: “Supplying knowledge. Forging citizens. Forming strong character. Bestowing dignity.”
These aims inform the structure of How to Educate an American, the essays of which are grouped into four sections of overarching themes: Part 1 is “History, Civics, and Citizenship”; Part 2 covers “Character, Purpose, and Striving”; Part 3 focuses on “Schools, Families, and Society”; and Part 4 finishes with “Renewing the Conservative Education Agenda.” Below are some, but not all, of the highlights of each section.