History professor to discuss public education

“What Happened to America’s Public Schools?” starts at 7 p.m. Saturday

Johann Neem

Johann Neem

PORT TOWNSEND — A Western Washington University history professor will talk about the state of public schools in the nation on Saturday.

Johann Neem’s free, hour-long presentation, “What Happened to America’s Public Schools?” will be at 7 p.m. the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at 2333 San Juan Ave.

“The goal of my talk is to help people understand what the purpose is of public education and why we have lost faith in it today,” Neem said. “I’m a historian of education, but my primary interest is how democracy works.

“I think that public education is so fundamental to our democracy that I started to explore why do we have public schools in the first place and what are they for.

“And why is it today when we face challenges of globalization of an increasingly diverse society, we’re struggling to remember those original purposes.”

Neem will lead with his findings on how the nation has viewed the public school system throughout history and how that outlook has changed. He then will open the conversation with those in attendance.

“I’ll talk for a little but the heart, the most exciting part for me, is the discussion that follows,” Neem said. “I see my kind of formal talk as a spur to discussion.

“I’m as interested in learning what the community thinks and talking to members of the community as I am in presenting my ideas.

“I am hoping for a good conversation.”

The presentation is through the Speakers Bureau of Humanities Washington, a nonprofit that works to bring scholars, artists and teachers into communities throughout Washington.

Humanities Washington has a list of speakers that sites can choose from and work with the organization to determine what speaker would be best for their area, said David Haldeman, Humanities Washington communication director.

This is the first year in about 10 that Humanities will reach every county in the state, Haldeman said.

“What we try as an organization is to find speakers who can explore things from a fairly neutral perspective,” Haldeman said. “Who can dig in and sort of get into the roots of arguments and really open up exploration, as opposed to someone kind of telling you what to believe and what to think. Particularly in a world right now where you can jump on to social media and just be filled with a thousand emphatic opinions.”

“It’s an exploration that is guided,” he said.

Neem has been teaching at Western Washington University since 2004 and this will be his fifth presentation with Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau.

Find more information on Saturday’s presentation on the Humanities Washington website.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5 or at [email protected].

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