Tuesday, August 2, 2016

It’s About More Than the Classroom

Sadly, it now appears that our country has decided that it is best to segregate groups of people rather than focus on society as a whole.  The recent problems in Dallas, Kansas City, Baton Rouge and other cities are symptomatic of a society focused on the individual instead of society as a whole.  Please understand that I do not intend to minimize the tragedies relating to young black men across the country.  I do believe, however, that we need to focus on solutions, not solely on the problems themselves.

I was encouraged over the past couple of weeks to read articles and posts by a number of well-known athletes, including Michael Jordan, Carmelo Anthony and Tamika Catchings.  These are individuals who care deeply about how to address the race-related issues and prevent a recurrence of violence, individuals who are becoming spokespeople to whom society can look for opinions and guidance.  We’ve certainly had our share of individuals of all races who believe that the way to address the issues is through actions, an approach that has proven to be unproductive and unhealthy for all involved.

So what does all of this have to do with public education?  Students of all ages are deeply impressionable and look to their teachers and others for an alignment of words and actions.  It’s one thing for a parent or teacher to say something; in many cases, it is yet another to actually do something.  In fact, it kind of reminds me of the “do as I say, not as I do” approach that many of us heard as youngsters.  That adage no longer works in a society that must align words and actions.

But now, more than ever, it is incumbent upon parents, teachers, administrators, elected officials and others to demonstrate a commitment to our future, and that future starts with developing the students in our schools.  Whether attending public schools, home schooled, attending private schools or attending charter and magnet schools, out students want to learn.  What is required of us is to give them the opportunity to do so. 

This is not just about the curriculum being taught in our schools.  This is about balancing what is taught with what can be shared by those of us in positions of authority.  It’s about communications and giving each child the opportunity not just to learn but to be a part of the dialog for the future.  Today’s students do not want to just be “book smart”; they want the opportunity to determine, on their own, how they can best become contributing members to a society that sorely needs, and is expecting, their leadership.

Michael Jordan, Carmelo Anthony and Tamika Catchings are all role models for today’s youth.  What is needed now is for those of who are not public figures to become role models themselves, individuals whose values and actions students want to emulate.  There are many who want to tear down a traditional public education system.  Let’s use this time of discourse as an opportunity to build the system back up to what most of us experienced when we were younger.  Today’s students are watching and waiting.  Now is the time for us to Make Education a Priority.

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