While Stressing the Need to Modernize Ohio's Education System, Ted Strickland Reverts to an Old School Concept of Centralized Education

In a Columbus Metropolitan Speech given on Monday, May 4, 2009, governor Ted Strickland referred to the need to reform education for the "21st century economy." However, in laying out his plans, Mr. Strickland reverted to an old fashioned way of thinking of the school as "place."

As advances in communication have allowed for instant access to some information, education has expanded beyond the classroom. For Ohio's citizens (of all ages) to have a national and competitive advantage, they need access to a breadth of information sources anytime and anyplace. While the internet is an invaluable tool for society, the closest thing we have to a true information infrastructure is our library system.

Schools have a certain role in every society, but while we place all of our hopes in one institution, the cultures which outpace our educational system emphasize the value of learning which extends beyond the school walls and into the library.

Here are some of governor Strickland's statements from May's speech:

To prosper in Ohio, we must <>.
Because the best answer, in fact, the only answer to the question is this: to prosper in Ohio, we must educate. Educate to the very best of our abilities.

Apparently educating to the best of our abilities includes reducing free access to information.

My brothers and sisters, Ohio’s Revival cannot be fueled by low expectations. A better day will not begin with us doing more of the same.

We will still be relying on the old centralized school system model--without the safety net of publicly accessible information.

It is my firm conviction that in order to revive Ohio we must provide the best, most progressive, most advanced educational opportunities for our children, and demand of them nothing short of excellence.

Without, of course, giving them the tools they need to achieve excellence.

Our commitment runs from birth to diploma, from job training to jobs.

Not, however, from school to home, or from Spring to Fall.

For our youngest learners, we are committed to developing a system of high quality services that focus on comprehensive development. We have expanded access to quality early childhood education programs for families and strengthened professional development and training for early childhood professionals.

While limiting families' access to supplementary reading material which would encourage a love of learning that goes beyond the classroom.

For college students and their families, we put a stop to a decade of annual 9 percent tuition hikes, and implemented the only two-year tuition freeze in the nation.

Reducing the funds made available to college libraries for research and inquiry. Ensuring that students will have to dig deeper into their pockets to acquire books required for their classes.

For adults in need of new job skills, we’ve brought job-training programs into the Department of Development and the Board of Regents as part of an ongoing commitment to focus training on areas of high job growth and high employer demand.

We will refuse them, however, public access to the computer terminals necessary for the poorest of these to fill out employment applications.

I believe the time has come to take an education system that in many respects is 200 years old and redesign it for modern students and the modern economy.

We will do this by pushing more money into the old system and removing the safety net provided by libraries.

But, my friends, in the days and decades ahead, a strong Ohio will require creative minds and innovative thinkers.
Each year, R&D Magazine hands out its “R&D 100 Awards” in honor of what they consider to be the year’s 100 most significant American innovations and inventions. These are the Academy Awards of economic creativity.
This year, Ohioans won 10 awards – second most among the 50 states.
That’s the future of Ohio –powered by well-educated innovators.

Where, exactly, will these innovators go to do their patent searches when the public library cuts those services due to budget shortages?

The Cleveland Clinic has spun off two dozen medical technology companies this decade.
That’s the future of Ohio –powered by well-educated entrepreneurs.

They can easily access the databases, books, forms, records and expertise they need at the libr---oops! Never mind.

But our students will not be ready to invent, design, solve problems, and lead companies if we can’t muster the courage and the foresight to provide them a 21st century education.

What exactly is a 21st century education, since it apparently doesn't involve the best information we can provide?

In the last “Program for International Student Assessment” – which measures students’ ability to solve problems and apply information – the U.S. finished behind the likes of Finland, China, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, and even tiny Liechtenstein.
And what do those countries have in common? In economic growth, all rank well ahead of the United States.

Well, let me tell you. Better yet, let's ask Finland's Ministry of Education:

"Finland is known for its comprehensive library network, high user and lending rates and effective use of technology and information networks in libraries.

Municipal libraries, research libraries, specialist libraries and libraries at educational institutions form part of the national and international information service network. Both municipal and research libraries are open to all. Students use public and research libraries side by side.

In Finland the guiding principle in public libraries is to offer free access to cultural and information sources for everyone irrespective of their place of residence and financial standing. No fee is charged for either borrowing or the use of library collections at the library.

About 80% of Finns are regular library users. Finns visit a library 11 times a year on average. Each year a Finn takes out 19 books, discs or magazines on average. The library net sites register over 38 million visits a year. "

And finally, Ohio will have a school funding system that relies on research and evidence to determine the components of a thorough and efficient education. And we are committing to fund those components thereby assuring all Ohio students, no matter where they live, will have the educational opportunities that will allow them to succeed in the 21st century.

Frankly, I can't understand how any situation that involves removing educational opportunities can be considered efficient.

People call this an education plan, but quite frankly, this is a plan for Ohio’s economic revival.
Because a student who graduates from our schools will have been asked to think and draw conclusions, to not just memorize facts, but use and apply them.

Where will this student find "facts?" Are we to find them only in textbooks? Those are always unbiased, right? You could review textbooks over a hundred years and see how "facts" change. Although, that will be difficult to do if the libraries are gone.

We are moving forward even though the tax reforms passed four years ago, which I have supported, will reduce the general revenue fund by more than $4 billion during the next biennial budget.

I'm not even sure how to respond to this one.

If we let this moment pass…we will not only have failed our state, we will not only have demonstrated timidity in the face of challenge, we will have sinned against our children.

I think that goes for those of us who see the values in libraries, as well.


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