Amazing Advances – and Abysmal Advances

Today Japanese surgeons report the world’s first successful surgery using IPS cells. These are cells taken from the patient’s body, and treated so that they act as if they were stem cells. They were then implanted in the patient’s body to repair damage elsewhere, in this case, the eye. A couple of years ago a Japanese professor won the Nobel prize in physiology for this innovation. Today was the first practical use of IPS cells in medicine. It heralds a great advance into regenerative medicine.
This is a great advance for all the world’s people. The Japanese should be proud that they have led in this. Their attention to education and cultural emphasis on math, science and technology has contributed to this success.
Reading today, I discovered more about the beginnings of education in the USA.  Puritans and Pilgrims led interest in founding schools because of their religious convictions, but in the second generation were hampered by attacks by Native Americans on their schools.  While they were loath to send women and children to congregate undefended during this period, higher education in these colonies, specifically Harvard, Yale, and Princeton continued to lead. The more southern colonies, lagged behind in founding schools at first, because they were less religiously inclined. Later, their tendency toward states’ rights meant that they led in the creation of both elementary and state universities, in order to meet more local needs.
A real effort across the states was made to address the needs of the poor children, and particularly those from “broken homes” because it was thought (then as now) that such environments could contribute to crime. These schools were generally called “charity schools,” many created by a Joseph Lancaster and others by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.
There were also  “dame schools,” run by women, specializing in the younger children’s education. These, along with Mr. Lancaster’s methods, became the model for today’s elementary schools.
Along with all these efforts, the founders of the government also spent time, effort and money toward encouraging education.  While there were always political differences in viewpoints, it appears that everyone generally worked together for the same goal of widespread literacy, and did so happily and without contention, if along their own preferred lines. One consensus was that character formation was the first aim, even above literacy. Both were agreed upon as the foundation of any civil, prosperous, and democratic society.
If the Asians can be proud of their culture that values education and math,science and technology instructions in particular, we  European types and specifically English speaking Americans, could also be proud of our original devotion to character formation, literacy, and civic mindedness.  Let us begin to lead in this direction once again.
 
 

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