I recently purchased a book at a yard sale. The book is titled "Asylum for the Queen", by Mildred Jordan, printed in 1948, exactly 50 years ago. I have no idea what it is about, nor do I have any intention of ever reading it. I bought the book for what is printed on the back of the dust cover. The following paragraphs tell a story of 50 years of failed public education.

"The 5th Freedom"

When you have read this book, we want you to think for a moment about what you have just done. Actually you have done something very difficult, though you are so used to it that it seemed easy. You had to be taught to do this, and probably many teachers struggled with you before it could be said that you could both read and understand what you read. You owe those teachers a great debt. They gave you the key to freedom.

There are other teachers, now, in your neighborhood, who are trying to give this key to other children. They are tired, discouraged people. Some will leave teaching this year for jobs that have a shorter work day, which are decently paid, which offer a better standing in the community and a more normal private life. Unless the present trend is reversed, more will leave next year, and the available replacements will be fewer and worse prepared. The sad truth is that able young people are avoiding this profession.

Every year thousands of normally intelligent youngsters finish their schooling unable to do what you have just done - read and understand a book. In overcrowded classes, with overworked teachers, with textbooks that are too few and too old, they will not have grasped the key.

This is the crisis in American education. It is here, it is real, and it is dangerous beyond words.

As a nation we have joined in a desire to realize the four freedoms. But there is a fifth freedom more fundamental than any of the others, and this is the FREEDOM FROM IGNORANCE. The ignorant man is the easiest prey to want and fear. Freedom of religion means little to him, and free press means nothing, for even if, technically, he can read, he cannot understand what he reads. He is a danger to himself, to you, to this country, and to the world.

You can help. Visit your local schools. See what can be done to keep and attract able teachers. Support Larger appropriations for salaries, equipment and textbooks. This will cost you some time and money, and it will be the best investment of both that you have ever made. Our teachers mold our nation's future. Give them your help.

After 50 years, and billions of dollars, what has changed?

Don't you think it's time we try another way to educate our kids?


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