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When a person is going to bake a cake, s/he gets out the ingredients, lets the cold ones come to room temperature, and puts them together according to the recipe. The recipe specifies the size of the eggs. It tells how much of each ingredient to use; and a successful baker follows the standardized measures. Each time, if the directions are followed carefully, the cake will come out the same. In this analogy, I like to picture the chocolate cake illustrated on the last page of Mickey Mouse's Picnic, a Golden Book from my childhood, which to me has always represented the epitome of cake excellence.

When an educator is making an American, a different sort of process is required. The children who appear in the classroom are not standardized in any way, except, perhaps, by a rough approximation of the same age. They have had different experiences, different upbringing, and may have different cultural backgrounds, even speak languages other than English. The educator is presented with a mix of children in a class: there is no homogeneity from child to child. Each child is unique, and functions at a different level. Some of these levels can be combined with no ill effects to the children. Some need extra help or extra enrichment. Variation is important in making a good American.

Bakers know that to make a good cake, it does not pay to use less than top notch ingredients. If the butter is old, you will taste it in the end product. Skimp on large enough eggs and use medium ones, and the cake will not have the proper texture.

Unlike a cake, to make an American properly, it is often necessary to use a unique recipe for each child. Some need help in a subject, some need enrichment in a subject. For some, the recipe is dictated by government standards and requirements, which often come with no funds to help out with the mandated additional or special ingredients.

I like to picture a successful "Make an American" recipe as one that produces a well educated, productive member of society, a person who is capable of contributing with achievements (and tax dollars), to supporting and furthering our wonderful society. Each American is made of out different ingredients each time.

The cooks in our community (citizens, parents and educators alike), work to make the best possible "product" of the children whose best interests we have at heart. It is a shame to economize on the future of our country, and those who will support and create it.

It's always possible to throw out a cake that didn't come out well, or give it to the birds. But our children....


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