That's the question at the heart of our cover package, which details dozens of ways, both small and sprawling, to keep education vibrant. Our "Sage Advice" question for the month asked subscribers, "What five things would you do to save public education?" Within days we received more than 500 suggestions, many of which helped create the issue you're holding.
The provocative question fired the imagination of many but struck a discordant note with others. Wrote one reader, "Save public education from what? Is there some danger?" A vice principal penned, "I am not sure that's the right question. Isn't public education working quite well?" Often, clearly, it is. Public education is in no danger of disappearing, but like anything worth having and loving -- free speech, civil rights, a good marriage -- it has to be nurtured continually in order to survive and thrive.
Today, our educational system faces some of the toughest challenges it has met since America's first public school opened in Boston in 1635. Nearly 40 percent of students entering high school fail to graduate. Almost half of all beginning teachers leave the profession within five years. And the No Child Left Behind Act has many educators feeling trapped in a test-driven system that stifles the individuality integral to great teaching. One result: Many students shift to private schools, not because their parents enjoy paying $10,000 and more per child for the annual tuition, but because they want something better for their kids.
Yet each day, thousands of educators fight the good fight, combining intellectual and technical innovation to create great schools and inspired students. That's what this special issue is all about. It's absurd to expect any single package in any given issue of a magazine to be the defining template for saving a venerable but troubled institution like public education. Instead, we hope we've gathered good ideas that prove instructive and empowering, making it possible to strengthen education, one day -- and one young mind -- at a time.
The George Lucas Educational Foundation will continue to support, recognize, and celebrate the best in public education, as it has for the past fourteen years. But we won't turn away from the problems that must be addressed in order to make our schools better. This issue's series of articles is just the beginning of a complex and crucial discussion. You can link to more of our readers' ideas (including the five ideas we heard the most often) at What Works, a page dedicated to providing you with additional links and resources related to this issue. We hope you'll join the conversation.