FIVE years after the watershed report, ``A Nation at Risk,'' by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, the debate about school reform in the United States still roars like seventh-graders heading for the door on the last day of the term. Nothing could be better for the nation's children. How citizens as a people sort out the way, the what, and the why children learn, will in large measure shape who they are as a people in the 21st century. Such an effort is complex, necessarily long lasting, and subject to mid-course corrections.
The differing points of view presented here on how to achieve the goals of public education are central to this school reform debate. Democracy fosters tension between conformity and individuality. So do the schools. At what point does one overwhelm the other to the detriment of both? What does a common foundation of knowledge for all students mean? Is it desirable? Is it doable? And if so, how do we know it has been laid? There is no summer vacation from such questions.