RE@L Post Commentary on StarTribune Editorial Page - 12/4/18: George H. W. Bush's Legacy - "We All Learn From Doing!"

RE@L-logo_Corp_TM_New-Tag_8-15-17_CMYK-300x127      NOTE:    RE@L is pleased to present the Letter to the Editor by Tom King, RE@L Blogmeister, and published in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune after the recent passing of former President, George H. W. Bush.

President Bush visited a very unique school here in Minnesota back in 1991, called the Saturn School of Tomorrow.

Both of your RE@L Blogmeisters played a supporting role for this school back then.

Dale, as CEO of MECC, authorized a major contribution with MECC’s extensive software resources. Tom was the founder of the St. Paul Saturn School of Tomorrow in St. Paul, Minnesota.

This unique school reformed K12 education with its primary focus on:

  • Personal Learning Plans for Each Student,
  • Parental Involvement in the Student Plan,
  • Hands-On and Team-Based Learning,
  • Using Downtown Community Resources, and a
  • Comprehensive Technology Plan that used computers and other technologies to empower teaching and learning.

Read on about the role about President George H. W. Bush, visiting the school, extolling the school’s new features, and also learning from the students! Here’s the rest of the story:

Minneapolis StarTribune Readers Write-Letters to the Editor, Dec 4, 2018

George H.W. Bush’s legacy: 

“We could all learn from the lesson student

taught the President in 1991.”


Elijah Pughsley, pictured in 1991, pondered a moment before he answered President George H.W. Bush’s question during a visit to the Saturn School of Tomorrow in St. Paul.

“Dear Editor:

We lost a leader who truly cared for the people he served. All of us. No, he was not an orator. His well-intended deeds spoke louder than his words. Like each of us, he made mistakes. He made no mistakes in his wanting a better world and a better country. Doing can be vexing, of course. But, President George H.W. Bush was a doer who learned from his doing, successes and mistakes.

An example of that focus on presidential betterment was reported in the Star Tribune in May 1991. On the front page was a photograph of Bush, sitting alongside a St. Paul school student who was clearly in deep thought.

The president had just asked the student what he liked about his new school. Bush was visiting to recognize the new school for its unique and promising approach to better learning and teaching. In front of them sat an array of Lego blocks, gears and motors, controlled by a computer program the student had devised. Well-schooled in his “thinking before doing,” the student told the president that he was working hard, using the school’s new tech tools and learning basic skills. He then added, “I like learning with my hands, and computers let me work with my hands.” That insight taught the president that there’s more than one way to learn needed skills.”

Your RE@LBlog Editors add that Pres. Bush was not only a good man and, in the opinion of many, he was a truly great president.  He searched for and found many workable, cross-party solutions during his single term. Such political agreements are hard to find, let alone make happen.
Mark French Sec Ed Lamar Hunt Pres Bush 1992

Science-Math Teacher Mark French; Secretary of Education, Lamar Alexander; President Bush and Saturn Student.

Bush extolled the Saturn School model in his remarks during his visit to the school back in 1991. As a result, the school had over a 100,000 people who came to visit the school. The tours were led by the students themselves.

No one knew the Saturn School better than the Saturn students. With their help, we were able to add a great many ripples on the “pond of school reform.”
Superintendent, David Bennett, was right in saying that Saturn School was a “confluence of serendipities.” It was. Saturn not only had support from him, but because of him, also our School Board. To broaden our base of reform, we solicited and found a commitment of support, grants and resources from software publisher MECC, the higher education faculty from the nearby University of St. Thomas, and very importantly, from our local St. Paul Federation of Teachers (SPFT) in creating new positions for our Lead Teachers. Lastly, we received generous grants from Apple Computer and also, the Bush Foundation. A comprehensive, new learning model of school reform was launched.


But, as any reformer can tell you, successful reform  takes time. Within  5 years, Saturn was overwhelmed by a “confluence of misfortunes”: Dr. Bennett, our supportive superintendent moved on, and the School Board support diminished. Worse, our local media singled out the questionable criterion of low standardized test scores from our non-standardized student body. Finally, our local teacher union, SPFT, received criticism from its many teacher members, and in time the Saturn School disappeared.


Yet, the vision lives on. What was accomplished at Saturn School didn’t disappear. Our students’ academic lives were clearly changed for the better. Today, they even have their own Facebook group. Our teachers were able to create new careers of leadership, as were the many thousands of visiting educators who borrowed from what had worked at Saturn. Reformers can create promising changes, but they also learn a lot from mistakes and misfortunes. The bad news was The Saturn School of Tomorrow never got enough time and support to show positive results. Keeping reform moving forward takes time!
Pres George Bush Saturn Visit Tom King Charlie Burbach 1991


George H. W. Bush, would have approved of Saturn’s good news and also understood the bad. As a leader, he knew both. So did we. Speaking for all Saturn students, teachers, parents and supporters, we give a rousing, collective thank-you to President Bush. He truly understood and championed our own “vision-thing.”

Twenty-seven years later, we are still looking for better ways for more students to learn. A thoughtful student had reminded all of us that we need to provide a larger palette of helpful teaching and learning tools.

Bush had well understood what he had learned from his school visit and brought political attention with more resources to help more schools. In the graphic at the right, Tom King shows President Bush the various learning projects of Saturn Students.

We are still in great need of more and better ways for diverse students to learn. Bush and a thoughtful student showed us how it happens. Let’s think first and then do it.

Here’s the way RE@L will make reform happen: RE@L Systemic Change™:

As our many RE@LBlog readers know, we are firmly committed to systemic change. Systemic change brings a carefully-devised plan to make reform work. Here’s Wikipedia’s definition: “Systemic change refers to complete change in any system: for example, the whole national school system….

Systemic change is required when efforts to change one aspect of a system fail to fix the problem. The whole system needs to be transformed.

That’s precisely what RE@L, with its emerging STEM Investigations™, is committed to make happen. RE@L has a systemic plan and a roster of STEM-based Investigation™ products to go with it. These new products are powered by a RE@L STEM Portal™ of accessible tools and resources for both teachers and students.

There’s more to come from RE@L and our Systemic Changes. Stay tuned!

Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.

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