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School Views: In pursuit of dreams

Dan Dougherty
Eagle County Schools

Public education has been under political attack arguably since the 1950s. Several ideas came together in the minds of politicians and big business that concluded arguing over education could win elections, enrich shareholders, and influence the future.

Our nation’s founders saw the potential harm in this reality and intentionally held education apart as a local control issue for states and communities to decide. Today, layers upon layers of federal and state requirements and programs place an administrative load on schools that increase operational complexity well beyond the art and science of teaching. It complicates the answering of a simple question: “What is the purpose of school?”

I’m going to argue that our purpose is to be dream makers. Yes, our work is on reading, writing, and arithmetic. We teach science, art, drama, and sports, history, languages, and music. We take children from all walks of life, create high expectations for their individual success, and guide them through 13 years of education and social development so they can succeed. We ignite curiosity, fuel confidence, protect innocence, create joy, feed intelligence, soften sadness, stimulate creativity, all while preparing children to cross the threshold into adulthood. We want them ready to pursue their happiness.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the true goal of education.” His words were prophetic.

Today, we’re still working on both characteristics — developing intelligence and character. Our efforts to increase culturally responsive teaching and foster equitable youth stewardship focus on character. Dual language education is all about intelligence — building better brains.

AVID, an instructional program aimed at first-generation college prospects, addresses both, so students are ready to meet the mental demands of college with the persistence and navigational knowledge to succeed in the institution. Our International Baccalaureate schools embed character development into their curriculum to teach the whole child.

Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) programs use project-based problem solving that works better from some learners. Teachers and support staff members are doing amazing work in support of the holistic growth students experience between the ages of 5 and 18.

But, back to the “why.” Our founders had a dream. It wasn’t perfect and benefits from continuous improvement. MLK improved on that dream — that all people would one day have access to the American Dream, to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As a nation, we’re still working on Dr. King’s dream. Let’s neither overlook how far we’ve come since 1963 nor deny how far we have yet to go in 2020. Dreams have a way of overlapping and intersecting. MLK’s dream, the American dream, the dreams of millions of students right now.

And, our valley has its dream: “What a community can do out of love for its children.” You see it in our philanthropy, the nonprofits serving kids, and the support of tax initiatives to fund and operate our schools.

Our Founders had the idea that everyone should have the fundamental right to pursue their own dreams in accordance with their own unique skills, abilities, and efforts. Since its framing, we’ve recognized that their original concept of “all men” was incomplete, and as a nation, we continuously work to be more inclusive.

The dream is what fuels the nation. Education is what fuels the dream. Let’s never forget that we’re dream makers, and that is the immeasurable purpose of our work.

Dan Dougherty is the chief communications officer for Eagle County Schools. Email him at daniel.dougherty@eagleschools.net.


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