In the No Child Left Behind decade, there is a way to measure myriad aspects of our education system: achievement levels, teacher success rates, accountability, you name it. But where is the measure for aesthetic appeal-and happiness?
A central component of the public school experience-how the school looks and feels to students-is too often ignored, argues National Book Award winner Jonathan Kozol in Greater Good (Fall/Winter 2006). He recalls his days as an inner-city elementary school teacher some 40 years ago and the filth and disrepair of the buildings even then. He does not see much improvement today, and he wonders how students can learn and grow in such uninspired environments. 'There is no misery index for the children of apartheid education,' writes Kozol. 'There ought to be.'
His plea is impassioned. 'This nation can afford to give clean places and green spaces . . . to virtually every child in our public schools,' argues Kozol. 'That we refuse to do so, and continue to insist that our refusal can be justified by explanations such as insufficiency of funds and periodic 'fiscal crises' and the like, depends upon a claim to penury to which a nation with our economic superfluity is not entitled.' -Laine Bergeson