I decided to spend my 100th blog entry ranting and raving. Haven't done that for awhile! I will probably offend half of my ward. (My Dad would be so proud!)
Last night we hosted a barbecue for Mark's business breakfast group and their families, mostly strangers to me. I left the party for a minute and came back to eavesdrop on a very interesting conversation. The gal who held the floor was an extremely impassioned businesswoman who started her own charter school last year. For those of you who don't know, charter schools are kind of a cross between a public and private school. They get some public funding but make their own rules, etc. It was just plain fun to hear the stuff she was spewing while no one was stopping her. I guess none of us knew her well enough. The part I walked in on went something like this, "Well, you know, public schools are really the most socialist part of our government." (She looks around to see how far over the line she can step.) "They are communist, really. Parents just send their kids there to school for babysitting services." We all kind of sat there in shock, and I was privately wondering why these communist schools I must support are the ones that DON'T require a uniform...). Someone asked her how she started up her own school. "Well, I got together with this friend of mine, who really cares about education, and..." (Picture right here a great big slow motion slap-in-the-face to all the teachers and other educators who have worn out their lives in service to the children of America...you know, the ones who must be in it for the money!)
The conversation ebbed and flowed. Her school is named after one of the founding fathers and when asked about curriculum she waved the verbal flag and said, "Oh, the basics, and the Constitution of course!" I wonder why there seems to be this theme (read between the lines the word SOAPBOX) among so many private and charter schools about the Constitution, like it's the Holy Grail of all learning or something. Really, folks. I went to college on scholarship, was a political science minor, and still managed to get by without having that hallowed document memorized. In fact, I probably prefer it that my third grader isn't waving a gun over her head like some Charleston Heston NRA wannabe shouting gun rights slogans "From my Cold Dead Hands!" And I'm a true blue (I mean red) card carrying Republican! Don't you think it's a little more practical for her to be learning things like multiplication, photosynthesis, cursive, and Internet safety?
Oh, here's another beauty. She goes on about public school teachers (of which, I may add, I have several in my family including my fabulous mother-in-law who taught 2nd grade for decades.) "Teachers HATE private schools and charter schools because they make them feel threatened. If people are sending their kids to alternative schools it means the teachers are failing, and they don't want everyone to figure that out." I'm pretty confident that most teachers want the best for their students, might even love them a little. I'm sure they would agree that if a student just isn't thriving in a traditional school environment that the parents should do everything within their power to fix that problem, even if it means putting them in a different school. So let's not belittle those of us who are lucky enough to be perfectly happy with the norm.
It might even be better than normal. I'll stop with the negative now and highlight some of the really great positive I've noticed about public school.
Here's an easy one. Can anyone think of a better invention than that great yellow striped thing on wheels? I can't hardly think of anything that supports my mom-at-home-with-three-other-kids lifestyle better except maybe disposable diapers and the microwave. When I see the bus coming, practically to my doorstep, to safely pick up and deliver my daughter I just want to cheer! Thank you taxpayers, thank you! And can you imagine how my parents felt? We lived a half an hour out of town!
As for all the people who send their kids elsewhere because they think their kids will turn out unAmerican (or even communist) unless they go to a school that has George Washington in its name , I beg to differ. When I walk in to our school, the walls are completely PLASTERED with American good stuff. All the important founding documents. The flag. Huge walls of honor for parents who are serving in the military. Yes, they still say the Pledge of Allegiance there. They also learn about the founding fathers, patriotism and all the patriotic holidays. They have an entire freedom week including a program with lots of singing and essays, etc.
As for the rights declared in the first amendment, (I'm suspecting the freedom of religion is the one most people think they are somehow promoting when they yank their children from public schools) those are very strongly upheld and even cherished. For example, in first grade Leslie's class was supposed to draw pictures about the theme, "America is a Work in Progress". She wanted to draw a picture of an LDS temple under construction. Not only did her teacher think this was a great idea but she took personal time with Leslie to look it up on the internet so she could have a decent photo to go off of.
My experience with religion and public school was also extremely positive. My little country grade school had a prayer for the food (yeah, this was extreme and you couldn't get away with it now, but nobody seemed to care and I think that every single student was a different religion). In high school I once wrote an English paper on Ayn Rand's Anthem that quoted the Book of Mormon and got an A. My school even hosted Holy Week every Easter where different pastors and preachers from religions around town would come in and talk about their religions or their understanding of Easter for a class period. Students could attend that or just spend time in study hall instead if they wanted to.
I think one of the best, most interesting classes I took in high school was my government class. What made it so great were the wonderful, passionate, TWO SIDED debates that took place. I think I learned so much more about my conservative political reasoning and feelings from my flamboyant, nose-ringed, foot-tattooed hippy BRILLIANT teacher than I ever could from someone who thought the same as I did. She was great about making us think for ourselves by understanding our opponent's point of view. In this way we would have to realize exactly WHY we disagreed with them. That class ranged from full-on red-neck, cowboy boot wearing militant types to peasant skirt, abortion supporting feminists, and it was so fun.
Anyway, hats off to the great educators I have learned from and to those who will be teaching my children. I know they DO care and will help my children become better, more well-rounded, and flat out smarter than I could have made them on my own.