ROCKLAND — Education Commissioner Leo G. Martin advised the SAD 5 board of directors that applying “individualized learning” techniques was critical to preparing students to cope with a rapidly changing world.
During a wide-ranging discussion held Monday night at Rockland Area High School, Martin also urged the board to work to include churches in the educational process. He said the increasing disintegration of families hampered the school’s ability to teach.
“Invite the clergy. Ask them how you can work together within the confines of your institutions,” Martin said. “Make them feel secure about doing this because we’re talking some pretty scary stuff. They don’t want to be accused of interferring with (the separation of) church and state.”
Owls Head board member Ronald Lussier said that while that concept may sound appealing, it is already too late to reach many troubled families and children.
“The vast majority of that population is unchurched and the problem family is dysfunctional,” Lussier said.”I don’t see those people being churched and I don’t see those families being fixed.”
Commissioner Martin agreed that reaching out to troubled families was an “awesome task, but we’ve got to keep plugging.” He predicted that unless the attempt was made, schools and welfare agencies would absorb great amounts of tax revenue. He said the entire community needed to become involved in education as the country geared up to compete in the next century.
Martin said individualized learning is designed to have educators gauge a student’s individual strength and plot the curriculum accordingly. As the student moves from one grade to the next, the teacher from the previous year should be consulted for ideas and impressions of the student’s personality. He said such a “team concept” would restore the system.
With global economic competition now at a fever pace, Martin said the old ways of teaching children needs to replaced. He said the concepts of the 1950s worked when America was virtually alone as an industrial power. Now that countries defeated in war have regained their economic strength and others are catching up, “we were getting fat and happy.” The days of finding work for the unskilled and having minimal competition have been eclipsed by history, he said.
“We’ve got brutal competition now,” Martin said.
Schools should adopt “hands-on” learning programs. Courses in technology should be made available to “those who couldn’t care less about Shakespeare.” While he acknowledged that “it’s difficult to make academic teachers understand this,” acquiring vocational-technical skills are critical if schools still want to pursue efforts designed to help youngsters get jobs.
Designing programs for the future is a “tremendous task,” Martin said. He said he is convinced that “public schools can do it” because they have in the past. Public education is a “remarkable and amazing thing,” he said.
Martin said protection of the nation’s economy is “very dependent” on education.
“You will see more support for education,” Martin predicted. “If there is anything we’ve got out of this recession, it’s the re-awakening of how important education is.”