My youngest student was 8 weeks old; my oldest was 66 years old.

There’s a lot of talk going around about proposed changes in the ways American children are educated. I think someone should ask students and teachers about what they want and what they need.

I have taught in lots of schools and formal educational settings; I have volunteered in many more. I’ve studied in lots of settings, too. But it’s been a while. I probably should volunteer again; I should take a class. I might help some kids, and I would probably learn a whole lot about what’s going on in today’s classrooms.

I know that the most effective teaching-learning experiences I ever saw or planned were those in which students taught other students. When given that responsibility, older — or more experienced — students really took their roles seriously. They worked very hard at presenting lessons in ways that learners could relate to. They often made, or used, special materials to help in the transfer of a skill. In these days of computer technology, peer-teaching would be even more effective.

Whatever it takes and however we get there, our educational programs and systems are far too important to entrust to politicians and bureaucrats. These are our children; this is their future. We have to know what we’re talking about, and we have to talk — to each other and to our elected representatives.

“ . . . . education is the most powerful weapon we can use.” Nelson Mandela, Madison Park High School in Boston; June 23, 1990

“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world . . .” Nelson Mandela, speech delivered July 16, 2003