Toward a Better-Educated America

Laura Drysdale, Elissa Apar, scholarship recipient Samantha Drysdale, Bruce Apar, Elyse Apar and Bill Drysdale Credits: Kieran Frail

One of the great controversies in public education is whether our schools should place more emphasis on teaching critical thinking skills, also known as 21st century learning skills. It’s a discussion worth having.

Learning by rote is not without its benefits and its ardent advocates. A healthy balance that combines both of those pedagogies—learning by rote and by critical thinking—makes the most sense.

Every year in this season of diplomas and mortarboards, the local charity we host in memory of our son—Harrison Apar Field of Dreams Foundation—awards a scholarship to an elite high school senior whose well-rounded pursuit of excellence echoes Harrison’s. He was born with a rare form of dwarfism, but his 3-foot, 38-pound frame was the only thing small about him. In his 15 years, Harrison lived life large. When you lose a child, you gain the privilege of helping others in your child’s name.

Sign Up for E-News

As part of the Harrison Apar award’s application process, we ask candidates to write an essay to assess their—you guessed it—critical thinking skills.

This year’s essay assignment was: “Tennessee is one of the first states to offers its high school graduates free community college, with no tuition, just like our public school system. Should more states and cities adopt the same policy of publicly-funded community college for all?”

The 2017 recipient of our award, Samantha Drysdale, was lauded by one of her teachers as “the perfect student… as good as it gets.” We agreed. She is headed to Boston University in the fall to study journalism. Whether or not you agree with her reasoning and conclusion, there’s no doubt the critical thinking skills apparent in Samantha’s humanistic analysis will serve well both her and consumers of her future work.

Harrison Apar Field of Dreams Scholarship Essay

By Samantha Drysdale

“Can I borrow a piece of paper?”

I heard this sentence during third period every day of my sophomore year. The student next to me traveled an hour and a half to get to my high school every morning, where he came with nothing more than a pencil and a willingness to learn. All year I provided him with loose leaf in exchange for the much greater gift of his assistance in a subject I was struggling in. It never seemed like a fair trade, but for a kid who could barely afford the transportation to attend my school far from his home, my loose-leaf paper, which I had never given much thought to before, made a difference in his academic career.

I owe my passing grade in that class to the help I received from this student. I haven’t spoken to him after that year when the expenses to transport him here every day became too much for his family, and I recently heard he won’t be attending college this fall. The injustice of it strikes me; that a brighter student than I could have a dimmer future because of the poverty he was born into. America needs these kids.

They’re the ones who might one day change the world if they stop falling victim to it.

Unfortunately, in a country where the “American Dream” is one of self-made success for those willing to work for it, the system can be stacked against those who work even harder than others.

Recently, Tennessee, Oregon and Minnesota began to offer tuition-free community college to those in their state whose income is below a certain level.

These programs have faced both positive and negative feedback. Our public education system is one of the most important programs our country can offer to better society. This system has been working effectively since 1635, when public schools began to educate American children.

The successes and advancements can be seen tenfold in the Nordic model of education. The Nordic countries offer free education from elementary to graduate. As a result, their lifespan and prosperity are increasing, while their economies boom from a better-trained workforce.

The programs in Tennessee, Oregon and Minnesota have only been instituted for a few years, and therefore it’s more difficult to see the long-term projection of their success. However, by studying the Nordic model, we can predict the propitious effects of tuition-free community college in America.

Tuition-free public education provides opportunities for underprivileged children who wouldn’t otherwise be available. It also strengthens our economy.

The “paperless” boy whom I was fortunate enough to be placed next to in 10th grade taught me more than the subject I struggled in. I learned that the American Dream will stay a dream for some unless we make a change. It’s time for us to embrace a better-educated America.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


The Hatch Act and Immigration Updates

This is for information purposes only. So, when you see headlines like the recent “Kellyanne Conway cited for two violations of the Hatch Act,” you will have a working knowledge of what it means. First off, what is the Hatch Act? This has nothing to do with Orrin Hatch, senator from Utah. Simply put, it states one cannot advocate for or against candidates while serving in an official ...

There Is Always More to the Story

If you are getting your information from CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times or others in the mainstream media, you would think the Russians are no good dirty scoundrels, colluding with Trump to steal the election from the rightful heir, Hillary Clinton.

The leading Democrats in New York are all on board with this scenario, as are Democrats representing states across the country. You have heard ...

The ‘Feminist’ President ... Ha!

Incredibly, it wasn’t until 1987 that Congress finally acknowledged the part women have played in the great movements of American history, declaring March to be National Women’s History Month.

And each year since, as March rolls around, U.S. presidents have stood at the lectern, extolling the virtues of American women. In President Trump’s statement, released last week, he ...

To Harrison, L'Chaim!

At long last, the smile of spring approaches, as an angry winter recedes into good riddance. Our spirit is ready to be re-charged. Damn the power outages, full speed ahead!

For my wife, Elyse, daughter, Elissa, and me, this otherwise exuberant time of year brings a confusion of mixed emotions. In 2003, on the opening day of spring, March 20, which happens to be my birthday, our 15-year-old son ...

Anytown USA's Reality TV Show

Nowhere is the raw power of our Constitution’s First Amendment more earnestly practiced than in thousands of town halls across the land every time a citizen steps up to the podium to say his piece.

That also is where reality television can be seen at its rawest, as town meetings are televised to the local populace. All the familiar production values of reality TV are there in full color: ...

When It's Not OK to Ask If Everything's OK

There is this thing that I do that annoys the heck out of my family. Well, to be honest, there are a lot of things I do that annoy the heck out of my family, but I am thinking of one thing in particular.

Whenever someone is in the bathroom for what I determine to be an abnormally long period of time, I stand outside the bathroom door and yell,


I ...

I'm All Pumped Up

This time last year, I struggled with my New Year’s resolution to go to the gym.

This year, I have made significant progress. I am going to the gym on a semi-regular basis. And by semi-regular, I mean, I go often enough that I actually remember where it’s located between visits.

The bad news, however, is that my workouts are just, how would you say it? Lame. Yes, they’re ...

Upcoming Events


Sat, March 24, 2:00 PM

South Putnam Animal Hospital, Mahopac

PCDOH Free Rabies Vaccination Clinic

Health & Wellness

Sat, March 24, 2:00 PM

South Putnam Animal Hospital, Mahopac

PCDOH Free Rabies Vaccination Clinic

Health & Wellness

Sun, March 25

First Presbyterian Church of Yorktown, Yorktown Heights

Holy Week at First Presbyterian Church of Yorktown

Religions And Spirituality

Safety Is Schools' Top Priority

March 14, 2018

To the editor,

[Editor’s note: The following letter was sent by School Superintendent Anthony DiCarlo to Mahopac families and the school community.]

We are all saddened by the tragic events that took place in Parkland, Fla., several weeks ago, Mahopac’s collective thoughts and prayers for healing and strength are directed toward the families and students of Parkland.

I want ...