Last Thursday I attended an evening meeting at a local public school that’s on the close-down list as our school district (4J in Eugene, OR) reels in shock over massive budget cuts. I have a 7-year-old grandson in first grade at that school, so I joined his mom at the meeting.
It was a sad meeting. There isn’t enough money. Schools are getting closed, kids and teachers getting shuffled around, we’re heading towards fewer schools with more kids in every classroom, less support, fewer school days, more decline in public education.
The public schools have already jammed more kids than ever in classes, and cut the hours, and the school days, and given up everything they think they can.
I hesitate to write about this in this blog because it is so hopelessly political, outside my normal areas of discussion, and just plain doomed to frustration and, sadly, predictability. Complaining about public education in this country is trite. There are choruses of articulate and well-educated voices crying out against what’s happening to education in this country.
You can find lots of statistics, and lots of research, and lots of people ready to blame somebody: one political party or another, parents, teachers, politicians, teachers’ unions, administration, coddling the kids, equality through mediocrity, and on and on.
If we really cared, as a society, we’d make it a priority. Do we really care?
When I was a kid, in the 1950s and 1960s, education was an accepted national priority. Sure, maybe it was because we were afraid of the Russians, or worrying about the space race … but it worked. And maybe it was because we were comparatively wealthier then than now, in the aftermath of World War II, as competing nations’ industrial base had been destroyed. And maybe we weren’t so polarized politically.
And while we’re bickering over whether it’s Democrats or Republicans or liberals or conservatives or too many administrators or teachers’ unions or voter revolt or government waste, teachers and kids are stuffed together in impossible situations already, and public school budgets decline further.
Do you relate to national pride? How does it feel to live in a country whose public education is second or third rate?
Do we care? Or is politics more important? Or is good education just too expensive for this society?
(Photo credit: Paul Carter/The Register Guard)