US schools prepare students for democracy

By John Green Source:Global Times Published: 2011-6-21 14:23:00

Dear Sir, 

I am writing in response to Patrick Mattimore's article of June 7, "US high schools no easy path to Ivy League." It is true that the number of Chinese students attending both secondary and post-secondary educational institutions is on the rise. Dramatically so! It is also true that American independent or private high schools have been the primary beneficiaries of the increase. 

The Commission on Independent Schools division of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) lists twenty independent high schools in Maine. Most of these schools recruit and accept international students. To paint all of them broadly with the Millinocket brush is unfortunately prejudicial. The Millinocket program is experimental and should be viewed as such. Millinocket is a once thriving paper mill town, a fact that does not make it a “run of the mill” town.

 Stearns high school was one of the largest high schools in the state, and, as a result of that history, still offers all students access to programs and facilities that might otherwise be unavailable elsewhere. 

Many Chinese families choose Maine independent schools especially, for its remoteness and for the quality of the education provided.  As a former US public high school teacher, you realize that education is more than acquiring academic skills and mastery of academic subjects. Education also embodies, the development of knowledge and the attainment of wisdom, which occurs through discourse, experimentation, and intellectual risk taking. 

The purpose of US education, at its best, is to prepare students for participation in a democratic society. US high schools, colleges and universities create environments where students learn the basic skills of a democratic citizenry; to identify problems, seek and discover sustainable solutions, and create policies that support solution implementation. 

US colleges and universities are universally recognized as the best in the world, and they do not exist in an educational vacuum. 

John Greene, 
Retired US high school teacher and administrator 
Senior Consultant, ChinaEdu

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