Thu09182014

A 'Common Sense' approach to education: Other Voices

In 1775, Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet called “Common Sense.” His short, simple summary of the advantages of the U.S. gaining autonomy from Great Britain served as the spark that lit the fire for independence. Much like our community, there were two violently opposed groups that Paine had to deal with: the British Loyalists and the Revolutionaries.

As a community, we have been feuding over public education for more than a decade. It is time for a “Common Sense” approach to public education in our community.

Silicon Valley has disrupted virtually every sector of our society. Why can’t our Los Altos community not only solve our internal strife, but also positively disrupt public education?

I propose an entirely new tack, in which we work together to come up with our “Common Sense Road Map” for public education. Let’s refocus our energies from conflict resolution to creating one of the best public education systems in the world. It will not be an easy process, but the concept is a simple one – we all want the best education possible for our children. Let’s do it.

The “Common Sense” approach will be to return to the early cornerstone of public education in our nation. Early in our history, the community decided that educating children was a high priority. First there was the one-room schoolhouse. The community raised the funds, constructed the building, hired the schoolteacher and specified the topics and the manner in which the students would be taught. The community drove the process and helped manage it. Now the community is many steps removed from the management process and many feel left out of the process.

My proposed “Common Sense” approach consists of inviting the community’s input on this proposed tack. I’m proposing a new approach. We will not try to resolve the divide between the Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School communities. We will not even discuss it.

Anyone wanting to complain about past failures and what should be done with the charter school should provide his or her own forum. For example, if you don’t think Bullis Charter School should exist or that the Los Altos School District is treating the charter school unfairly, this is not the right place to voice that opinion. But if you want to work with us to positively disrupt public education in our community, I heartily welcome your ideas. Our goal should be to create the best education system for our children, despite our differences.

I encourage your feedback. Email your input to Editor Bruce Barton at the Town Crier at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Anonymity is not an option in this process. If you want to voice your opinion, you have to tell us all who you really are.

In a later article, I will summarize the input received and start a process to create one of the best public education systems in the world.

Paine did not just try to promote peaceful coexistence. He proposed a revolutionary new way for people to govern themselves. Look at what we have, thanks to his vision.

John Swan is a former member of the Los Altos Hills Public Education Committee.

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