Open Letter to Arne Duncan

6 Mar

Dear Mr. Duncan,

I am an idea man with an out-of-control compulsion to tell people how to do whatever they do better, and I have what I think are some good ideas that could be easily implemented in America. They involve a “soft touch” cultural shift in how we educate our children. I believe we must look both forward and backward to adjust our attitudes about what constitutes a good education. We need to look forward to find an optimal use of media and technology, and backward to revive what has long been a part of a classical education.

TV, as you well know, is a very powerful tool to influence people. At present, it is possibly the most squandered resource in our country. This is where we need to softly glide into the living rooms of Americans with solid educational content that fits into existing popular formats. How about SpongeBob-the-chemist, biologist, oceanographer or mathematician? All one needs to do is change the scripts just a little.
Even the most lowbrow “reality” show could be used to teach just about anything, with an educator on board directing the script. Is there a way Washington could work with the networks through funding and an appeal to their patriotism? Think about it: the audience and the distribution network are in place. Complement TV with Internet interactivity, and the set is complete.

It has been my observation, since my arrival in this country thirty-two years ago, that Americans in general lack problem-solving skills. In days long gone the affluent and powerful made sure that their offspring learned some very basic skills: Latin, fencing, and chess. And for good reason. Latin opened a keen understanding of the written word, including Scriptures and Poetry. It taught etymology and thereby grew vocabulary skills.

Fencing helped to develop an agile mind and body, much like the game of Tennis does today (without the cost and space constrictions of the courts); it teaches kids to be quick thinkers and self-reliant individuals, unlike the over glorified game of Football (sorry).

Chess is the foremost problem-solving exercise, and that is not just a matter of opinion. Students may partake in activities such as chess and fencing without the pressure of a grade. Just learning how to play and use the rules to advantage will sharpen their minds and help them slough off the languor of mindless marketplace media. More than half a century of TV in the control of marketeers has brought the U.S to its current educational dilemma, lagging behind much of the world in ethics and the skills needed to compete in a rapidly changing environment.

Dear Sir, it is you and President Barack Obama (whom history will deem as one of the greatest American presidents) who have the opportunity and duty to significantly change our broken educational model. If you don’t, the next president may lack the vision to institute real change. Content standards are fine, but school is not a factory.


Amnon Mintz


2 Responses to “Open Letter to Arne Duncan”

  1. NutMeg March 6, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    I love the idea!

  2. Synva March 7, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    I also would consider something akin to the guild system of Medieval times, in which tradesmen took on apprentices and helped them become experts in their craft. Send interested parties through tech programs and then line them up with a working man who knows his stuff. Teachers exist everywhere–not just in the classroom.

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