Focus on science and math, and the students

In the year 2000 what will the world be like? What kinds of jobs will exist? What kinds of machines will they have to know how to use or repair? These questions are not premature. They are relevant now; the year 2000 is when today's kindergarteners will graduate from college.

Who can answer these questions with certainty, given such a fast-paced world as ours? Yet it's the job of our schools to prepare today's children to function effectively in the world of the 21st century.

That is why the debate on reform of American public schools must go beyond issues like the length of the school day, merit pay, and the structure of the educational system.

As a just-ended series in this newspaper points out, not the system but the students must come first: priority must be given to their true educational needs.

Given the enigmatic shape of the society into which today's kindergarteners will graduate, their most fundamental educational needs are two:

- To discover their unique talents. The individuality of each child needs to be recognized, and supportively developed.

- To learn how to learn. Our schools may not teach them all they will ever need to know, but they can teach the process of learning.

Society needs to be clear what the ultimate goal of educational reform is. It is not simply to get a better school today. It is to get a better generation tomorrow.

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