Susan Jacoby, writing in The New York Times, brings to mind Dave Sanchez, a retired teacher and administrator I have written about in the past in my Albuquerque Journal column.

Jacoby and Sanchez agree that on many occasions the single biggest obstacle to success in the classroom is the local school board. (Let us now pause a moment to reflect on the Texas Board of Education, who just a few days ago eliminated Thomas Jefferson because of those awful things he wrote about the separation of church and state.)

Jacoby writes: “Our lack of a national curriculum, national teacher training standards and federal financial support to attract smart young people to the teaching profession all contribute mightily to the mediocre-to-poor performance of American students, year in and year out, on international education assessments. So does a financing system that relies heavily on local property taxes and fails to guarantee students in, say, Kansas City the same level of schooling as students in more affluent communities.”

This caused me to dig up an old column I did with Dave Sanchez. He is retired now. He majored in math and philosophy at UNM, got his master’s at Michigan, served in the Marine Corps, returned to Michigan and then on to postdoctoral work and teaching at the University of Chicago, spent a year in England, 11 years at UCLA, then served as vice chancellor and provost at the National Science Foundation and finally returned to teaching at Texas A&M.

Here’s what he had to say about a national curriculum: “I really do believe that a mandated national curriculum is needed. I tutored a boy once who was flunking math terribly and one day I discovered he didn’t know his multiplication tables. You can’t solve problems until you have the tools. We’re still fighting those battles.”