In The New York Times Opinion Pages on January 15, 2011, Op-Ed Columnist Nicholas D. Kristoff argues that the real strategic challenge isn’t Chinese fighter aircraft but China’s focus on education.  I won’t go into the controversy about the latest international tests in which Shanghai and other Asian countries ranked at the top, along with Finland.


I took something different away from his piece.  He’s been visiting schools in China and Asia for more than 20 years, so he had a lot to say. Here’s what stuck with me: He said, “[I]n China, school sports and gym just don’t matter.”  Before you get the wrong idea, he later noted that “[I]n Chinese schools, teachers are much respected, and the most admired kid is often the brain rather than the jock or class clown.”  In other words, succeeding in school sports was kept in perspective, something you don’t always see in our schools or communities.


Hey, what an idea—respecting teachers!  Admiring the top students more than the top athletes.  I’ve hated to see the horrible “My kid beat up the honor student” bumper stickers, and any form of making less of hard-working students.  I know that is not a mainstream or widely-held idea, but it is nasty and shouldn’t be tolerated.  We’ve got to turn things around in a big way.  Of course, Delphian is different and we are able to honor the academic achievement of all of our students.  Check out one of our Graduation videos to see for yourself.


The truth is that when students do well in any academic field, we ought to be as excited as we are when our school sports team does well.  Sports pages sell newspapers, but wouldn’t it be great if there were also School Pages, where equal excitement was shared about student academic accomplishments?  Wouldn’t it be great to see what local students were being recruited into colleges because of their academic achievements?  And wouldn’t it be great to see more schools where all students can achieve their academic goals?


There are many good news stories about student achievement.  They just don’t quite make the same splash that sports makes.  Apparently this is where China does a better job than America does.  


On January 10, I took 29 Upper School students to Salem to see the opening of the Oregon Legislature and the inauguration of our Governor Kitzhaber.  We heard him talk about education being his highest priority.  He said “[E]ducated citizens are more likely to succeed in the workplace and less likely to need social support services or to become involved in the criminal justice system.”  


I think the least we can do is work on admiring and honoring academic achievement as much as we do athletic achievement.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Posted by Mr. Mark Siegel on Monday January 17, 2011 at 01:28PM

Oregon Governor Kulongoski has proclaimed today, February 4, 2010, Oregon Private Schools Appreciation Day.  In the midst of the latest money-based public school educational reform initiatives (fads), it is important to remember that there is not an educational crisis in our private schools.  That is not to say that the private school community does not have problems, but because they operate on free-market principles, they are better able to address and remedy them efficiently to the satisfaction of the families that they serve.

Let’s step back and see how this all works.  Our country was founded on the proposition that not only was freedom an inalienable right, but a free environment would actually improve the human condition.  Over 200 years later we find this premise being proved in the field of education.

Almost 10 years ago, the  Manhattan Institute for Policy Research released a study which found that high levels of state support for parental choice in education correlates to strong performance on both the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the SAT, even after controlling for other demographic and policy factors. (The report, entitled The Education Freedom Index is available on the Web site of the Manhattan Institute.)

In that study, Oregon ranked fifth from the top for providing families with an environment of educational freedom.  The bad news is that at one time Oregon had the distinction of being the only state in the union to outlaw any alternative to public school, making it mandatory for all children to attend public school.

June 1, 2010 will mark the 85th anniversary of an important Supreme Court decision, Pierce v. Society of Sisters, which overturned Oregon’s 1922 Compulsory Education Act.  That 1922 Oregon law was designed to destroy private schools in Oregon by requiring parents to send their children to public schools, and each day they failed to do so was a separate misdemeanor, punishable by fine and imprisonment.

Only the courage of the Society of Sisters and Hill Military Academy stopped efforts in Oregon and elsewhere to destroy the parental option of enrolling children in private schools.  Together they successfully sued to stop the law from being enforced, with members of various religious faiths joining in briefs before the US Supreme Court including Episcopalians, Jews, Lutherans, and Seventh-day Adventists.

In my next blog, I’ll go over more of the arguments and “reasoning” that advocates brought before the Supreme Court.  But the good news is that the Supreme Court threw out the Oregon law and the Court left its mark in the legal history of American private education when it declared, “The child is not the mere creature of the state.”

Today we celebrate the living reversal of that oppressive law, and a formal recognition of all the good things that private schools bring to Oregon and to children and families throughout the world.

Posted by Mr. Mark Siegel on Thursday February 4, 2010 at 08:18AM

I just found out about a new book (that I haven’t read yet), Readicide  How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It, by Kelly Gallagher.  The publisher’s site (Stenhouse) says it very well:

“Read-i-cide n: The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.

“Reading is dying in our schools. Educators are familiar with many of the factors that have contributed to the decline — poverty, second-language issues, and the ever-expanding choices of electronic entertainment. In this provocative new book, Kelly Gallagher suggests, however, that it is time to recognize a new and significant contributor to the death of reading: our schools.

“In Readicide, Kelly argues that American schools are actively (though unwittingly) furthering the decline of reading. Specifically, he contends that the standard instructional practices used in most schools are killing reading by:

  • valuing the development of test-takers over the development of lifelong readers;
  • mandating breadth over depth in instruction;
  • requiring students to read difficult texts without proper instructional support;
  • insisting that students focus solely on academic texts;
  • drowning great books with sticky notes, double-entry journals, and marginalia;
  • ignoring the importance of developing recreational reading;
  • and losing sight of authentic instruction in the shadow of political pressures.”

I tutored my way through much of my college career, and I found that it was very hard NOT to teach someone to read.  It takes work.  With a little bit of time and commitment, all of my students learned to read or improved their ability to read.

Readicide doesn’t happen at Delphi, but I’ve visited enough students and schools for many years to know that it does exist and this excerpt is an accurate summary of the way it is  The NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) Reports verify the problem of student illiteracy, and adult illiteracy is also well-documented.

Descartes said “The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest men of the past centuries.”

Abraham Lincoln said “A capacity and taste for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others.”

Frederick Douglass said “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

Let’s stop the Readicide!  Let’s stop it now!  Let’s free the people!


Posted by Mr. Mark Siegel on Monday August 3, 2009 at 01:57PM

Welcome to my new blog about education!

I’m a 60-year-old educator, and I think I’ve been an educator my whole life. But there is no arguing with the fact that I’ve spent more than 35 years on the front lines of education, both private and public.

I want to use this blog to help my friends (and soon-to-be-friends) by serving as the “one-stop shop” of information and links about education, learning and teaching, focusing on the burning issues that don’t go away when the fads do!

I think it’s easy to get side-tracked from the real issues (burning issues) in education, and I hope to guide my readers around the noise as well as learn from contributors along the way. It is easy to avoid the tough questions, but they don’t go away if you do.

 The biggest problem – the biggest by far – is education fads. A major product, report or “bright idea” comes out, noise follows with a mix of action, excitement and then inaction. The light fades as the next fad comes to the front. I will do my best to avoid this problem.

 Fads are always exciting, while long-term burning issues aren’t. Sorry about that. This leads to retelling “the same old story” – the long term one that we really can’t ignore, even if some folks consider it boring. Well, that’s the way it is, and that’s what I’m all about – the burning issues that won’t go away.

 Add to that the fact that change is the new normal, and the ever-increasing pace of change is the new normal rate of change. More change, faster change – that’s the new normal!

 It all adds up to challenges to do what is right for kids, our kids. And to do it today!

Stay tuned (and let me know what you think of all this)!



Mark Siegel

Posted by marks on Wednesday January 21, 2009 at 09:42AM