Every building project, including a school or a community, must have a foundation. The foundation of society is the family. The family is the first organization of individuals into a group. Although small and informal in nature, it is the place for the central learning of our lives. Families build communities, and schools are built to serve families. In defense of the family, our public school system primarily exists to serve the academic needs of children.
In our community right now, the school system is incrementally taking the power and authority of parents to raise their children. With the passage of the upcoming bond referendum, the very foundation of our community, the family, will be weakened and the institution strengthened.
The administrators know all the right answers to calm worried parents. If you are concerned about having your 10-year-old child in a setting with 15-year-olds, they will create pods and wings to separate them. If you are worried about 2200 students of a volatile age in one building, they can manage it.
Brainerd School Board Member Janet Moran has repeatedly assured us that this environment will be so full of opportunities that it can meet all of our children's needs--not only academically, but emotionally, socially, physically and psychologically. This appears to be quite a school!
It shames me, as a parent who struggles to meet all those needs all the time in my own home. Maybe this is why I should turn over my parenting responsibilities to an institution.
In their enthusiasm to provide better facilities, they have tried to convince us that this plan, which they know has obvious disadvantages, is the best thing for the children. Yet, they continue to implement programs to achieve their own goals, regardless of what the families of this community want. Since we respect their all-knowing wisdom rather than our gut, we give them our authority. Ultimately, these good intentions infringe on the family.
For example, the schools want to feed breakfast to all the children. That appears generous. But I prefer sending my child off to school from our family breakfast table, having nurtured and nourished her for the day. In order to keep funding for this program, the administrators encourage us to send our children to breakfast at school even if we are opposed to it. In this apparently innocent way, the institution is exerting pressure on the family, taking its resources of time and money.
With the passage of this bond referendum, the district will begin all-day, every day kindergarten to fill the empty spaces left by the fifth graders. More learning at a younger age is better, right? Too much formal teaching exhausts kindergarteners.
Again, we will be asked to sacrifice our one-on-one informal teaching for the good of the institution. They will answer any objections by calling it best practice in education. This added "education" is just state-funded day care. When will they move the fourth graders out to make room for the 4-year-olds?
This referendum is more than a battle between big vs. little or old vs. new. It is a battle for public school reform. It is about calling on schools to teach academics like reading, writing, math, and science with greater emphasis and to stop parenting. Removing responsibility from the parents caused this problem in the first place, and the socialization of education will only increase it.
Good parenting does not come from administrators or pods or wings. It comes from a father and a mother in the home. From the first parents on earth, we have all struggled to teach our children in the best way we know how. But in that struggle, we learn. The process teaches us like no other experience in life. And that is the continuance of our education.
Our community is at a crossroads, a place to choose our direction. As a society, we often talk about the road less traveled, but usually choose the other one out of fear of the unknown or a false sense of security.
Here is our road less traveled--trust in our own ability to teach our children social and spiritual values, recognize and protect our families against the intrusive pressure of more, more, more, and call on our schools to work for us. This road's destination can be academic excellence in place of equalized mediocrity.
(Hirst is a member of the Brainerd Dispatch's advisory board.)
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