Getting Up-Close-and-Personal with Our Schools


This is Kathie’s first year of high school. She’s always done well in school. This year she involved herself in several extra activities, so I knew keeping up with homework might take extra effort. What I didn’t anticipate was how disillusioned she would become about public school.
I’ve observed the social consciousness of both my daughters as they developed both a responsible compassion for what’s going on around them and a critical eye that makes them active participants in whatever they’re involved in.
So how do I keep my teen motivated when she announces that she wishes she could be home schooled and that her days spent in school reinforce her conclusion that public school wastes too much time? What makes it tough is, I agree with her.
Most likely a public majority agrees that our public schools need reform. Opinions abounded in New York Times letters to the editor. One writer pointed out that most parents are wise to their children’s educational needs and that “a top-to-bottom rethinking of our school system” is not the answer.
Another letter stated that ours “is indeed a monolithic, bureaucratic, and socialistic way of educating children,” and said we must hold accountable not only the educational establishment, but also the parents, and concluded that “parents must recognize that schools can’t do it by themselves; values and ethics begin in the home.”
Others suggested that more charter or private schools funded by government would offer a choice for students and competitiveness could bring change. “Give people a choice and they’ll shop with their feet,” said one.
I can give Kathie this simple explanation: It’s like anything else; the more individuals involved, the harder it is to come up with an efficient schedule. If my family is not satisfied, a quick solution for us would be to pull out and home-school.
We considered it when our kids were finishing preschool. Home-schooling offers many merits — improved time management being one of them, though reverting to this, now, seems I would be denying my responsibility to the local school that receives my tax dollars.
Even though Kathie is a good student, I need to schedule conferences with her teachers and find out how I can help them teach her. I need to listen at school board meetings, find out what is being decided, and when something is addressed that would (as one example) influence better time management during the school day, I need to speak up.
Individually, I can’t make great changes in our public school system, but if enough of us, collectively, took an active part communicating with teachers and attending board meetings, we could slowly bring about changes that could better public education. Positive change has to begin up-close-and-personal with individuals in their individual schools.

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