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School proposals worth a look

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Longer school days is an idea worth pursuing. Requiring students to take two foreign languages is not.

Those are opinions this page shares with a majority of Utah residents who voiced their views in a Deseret News poll. Scott Bean, state superintendent for public instruction, deserves credit for stimulating discussion on both these issues with his proposals that go beyond the norm for educational enhancements in the Beehive State.In this era of technological revolution, it makes sense to be better prepared to deal with new challenges locally, nationally and internationally. How to best do that - and at what cost - will be debated for years. Bean has provided a stimulating starting point.

Adding about an hour to the school day for secondary students and a half-hour for elementary school students is only worthwhile and worth the estimated $104 million in additional yearly expenses if that action brings about significant results. Under Bean's proposal, the extra time would allow enhanced graduation requirements.

More would be required in math, science, arts and foreign languages. While most students probably would be able to handle the additional requirements well, what about those who have difficulty just meeting current requirements? Some students are adept at foreign languages, some at math and some at both.

Others, however, have considerable difficulty studying one foreign language, let alone two. And some have problems mastering English. To require all students to take two foreign languages would be too steep of a challenge.

Then there are those not planning to go to college. Should they be required to meet the same criteria, or should a modified curriculum be provided to best meet their needs?

Bean has already answered some of those questions. Under his plan, students could request requirement waivers and take applied-technology education their senior year at one of a dozen proposed State Board of Education applied technology centers throughout Utah. Again, the issue of funding comes up as those centers would cost $118.5 million initially, with $13.7 million needed for annual operation and maintenance.

If such funds are made available, many believe the educational system would be best served by reducing class sizes and for ongoing improvement areas like teacher training.

Bean's ideas are worth examining and considering. After all, critical thinking is largely what education is all about.