BOSTON — As we launch our new learning section, one fact is clear: The way Americans teach their children is being scrutinized as never before.
President Clinton takes on "why Johnny can't read" (or write or add) in his State of the Union address. In Texas, the chairman of the state board of education wants to replace textbooks - every single one - with laptops. Georgia's governor has suggested giving all newborns in the state Beethoven CDs for their learning (and, OK, listening) pleasure. In communities around the United States, parents are piecing together their own charter schools.
What's going on? Education used to be relegated to the back pages. Now, a whirlwind of school reform commands full attention.
This section is devoted to helping parents, teachers, students, and taxpayers look behind the scenes. Just how many tests do children need to take? Will new state standards make the US more competitive? What's behind the soaring costs of special education?
We'll be looking at what's happening and at what works - and where educators and communities are helping students to love learning and overcome barriers.
Even as schools and teachers strive to meet new demands, it can be difficult for parents to tell if their child is truly getting a good education. How do I know if my child has a good teacher? Gail Russell Chaddock points out in our cover story that the University of Virginia's education school is concerned enough about criticism of teachers to offer a warranty on its graduates.
We'll hear each week from educators at all levels about how they teach children to read well and help them prepare for tests. We'll also ask teachers to address some of the criticisms most often leveled at their profession.
Young people will get a chance to sound off as well. Each week in the "On Campus" column, college students will talk about what moves them. This week, a Princeton University senior finds that the library still offers the Internet some competition. Other columnists will tackle student fees and concerns about crime on campus.
But learning, of course, is not limited to what goes on at schools. We will take you to the places where recent college grads, at-home parents, and retirees explore old interests and learn new skills, whether it's mastering a language or tackling the computer.
What do you want to know about? Let us know what's going on in your community, or how you feel about what we're doing.
* Write to: Learning Editor, One Norway St., Boston, MA, 02115 or e-mail email@example.com