A ‘must-read’ book

Published 11:34 pm Friday, October 3, 2008

I’ve read extensively about the problems that plague public education.

I’ve read little about solutions to those problems.

Franklin resident Howie Soucek, a former classroom teacher, offers the catalyst for the latter with his new book, “Notes on Education,” published last month by TEACH Services Inc.

In short, Soucek’s book should be required reading for all who lament the decline of K-12 education in America.

Though he writes from a teacher’s perspective (Soucek taught middle school for nine years during the 1970s, and many of the words in his book originated as “vents” about his frustrations), no stakeholder is spared accountability in this candid assessment. Whether student, teacher, parent, administrator, bureaucrat, lawmaker or taxpayer, a reader of this book will be challenged to do better.

Though Soucek writes about the state of education generally, his book has particular relevance for area school divisions, which struggle with many of the problems he documents. The timing of the book’s release is perfect for Franklin schools, which stand at a critical crossroads.

The Franklin School Board has an opportunity to do more than hire a new superintendent. Using Soucek’s book as a resource, if not a roadmap, the board can transform the way our schools prepare a new generation of citizens.

It will require courageous leadership. Timidity has no place in Soucek’s world of reform.

He tackles, without apology, the lowering of standards that has “dumbed down” our schools and, by extension, the students they produce. Social promotion, low academic standards for athletes, and weak administrators who cave in to the demands of hostile parents are just a few of the problems that raise Soucek’s ire.

“What I want most is to light some fires of passion for effective education across our nation, with flames emanating from everyday folks at the community level — from teachers and civic leaders and from parents to government officials,” Soucek says of his motive for penning the book. “I am certainly not setting forth a black-box solution that can be plugged in and turned on. Rather, I am challenging the entire spectrum of citizens in large and small communities to take responsibility for the children in their own communities by becoming ‘activistic’ in insisting on and playing a role in improvement in education at the local level.

“All I offer in ‘Notes’ is some fodder for the initial dialogue to take place within the community, to be followed by significant organizing, research, brainstorming, debate and decisions being made in an organized and transparent way, always with a total focus on the best interests of children.

This process will be degraded to the extent that the influences of power-mongering, self-interest and politics-as-usual play a role. Ideally, ‘Notes will play a small but helpful role in contributing to the initiation of a needed revolution in education in America.

“We must get on the proverbial stick; the children are waiting.”

Soucek’s book, I’m proud to report, is getting a good early response. Amazon.com has sold all of its initial allotment. Copies remain available for $10.95 at www.teachservices.com.

Buy a copy today. His words will move you to action.