Sunday, June 4, 2017

Public School Under Attack

My Second Grade, Bibb City School, Columbus, GA--on the first row--second 
from the left you will find me. Though there have been some changes made.

Funny I never thought that I would live to see public schools attacked. But today is the day. When I was growing up a thousand years ago we only had one choice. We walked down the street two blocks to Bibb City School. There were no Charter Schools*, no Christian Schools--whatever that means. There was no Home schooling--every adult I knew worked at some job. No time or energy for home schooling. There were no vouchers and no private schools--well, not on my side of town. There were a few--very few--Catholic schools in the deep South.

This was Georgia and in say 1941 there must not have been too much money for schools--even though they did supply pencils and tablets and we did have new school books. I do remember my teachers every Monday morning asking who all went to Sunday School on Sunday. Raise your hands. I didn't realize how Johnny or little Suzie must have felt when they did not go or their parents didn't care. Our Teachers read the Bible to us though most of us did not understand or we thought it was, well boring. The Gideons came along and gave everybody a New Testament. Fortunately (for them) there were no Jews in our school. And though most of us did not read a single word of those tiny Testaments it was nice to have the little Holy Bible in our dresser drawers. We had assembly occasionally and sometimes we sang songs like "On Christian Soldiers". We were a pretty homogeneous group and not a Jew or a Jehovah's Witness or a Mormon within a hundred miles. The Catholics did not live in my little cotton mill village and so few were offended by the religiousity of our school. Muslims--we did not even know that word.

The Teachers for a while could not be married and I am sure they surely could not drink our smoke and most of them, I am sure, had to be borned again. They all went to church. And yet despite it all I got a good education. I learned to read and write and got introduced to books. I never did take to mathematics. But I felt that my teachers cared and that those of us that sat in those little seats felt we went to the best school in the world.

Grade school led on to High School ten miles away. The yellow bus picked us up every
Bibb City School, Columbus, GA
morning. And by then my world was stretched. Why we had a Catholic that was Editor of our School paper. I don't know what she thought of one of my teachers who read a sermon of Peter Marshall about once a week. And I don't know how she and others like her felt when over the public address system we would all say, together, in tandem in every room the Lord's Prayer--Protestant version. 

But I digress. I got stretched first by a Journalism teacher. She talked to me about college. I learned about books in English classes. I began to work on the school paper and annual. And I even began to have a little understanding of government and FDR and Pearl Harbor and then war with the Germans and the Japanese. And except for those times we had to get under the desk and practice what would happen if an atomic bomb came our way--we really felt safe.

The point?  I got an education. Learning happened in those classrooms that is still with me until this day. And when I hear all this gloom-doom talk about failing public schools. The list is long.  Godless--since somebody took prayer out of the schools.  Some of these schools even teach the world evolved from monkeys. Global warming was a Communist conspiracy. We lived in a Southern bubble. Our world was lily white--there would come a day when we began to ask where do all the "colored" people (that's we called them) go to school. Where do they live? They shined our shoes and took home our laundry (nobody had a washing machine). They cleaned our houses and kept us when we were little. But one day the scales began to fall off and many of us realized that white folk were only part of there world. 

So I just don't have much patience with all these jazzy ideas about vouchers and Christian schools and home schooling. And I really get scared that there are some folk out there that want, not to drain the swamp, but drain the public schools of what few dollars they get. If we syphon off this money public education will dry up and so many will miss what I received along the way.

I have even heard there is a move on to call public schools: "government schools." Like we
photo by Joe Wolf / flickr
call public housing: "the projects." And horror of horrors--there is even a strong group that want to do away with breakfast and lunch for poor kids. Teachers and school nurses tell me that some of their kids get nothing but what they get at school. In Friday the  schools send home with these same kids food for the weekend. The richest country in the world and we cannot take care of our own? There is something wrong with this picture. And speaking of Christians--reckon what the Lord Jesus would say to such cruel ideas?

We have a Secretary of Education that wants to shrink the Education Department. She wants to take  away funds from public schools and give out vouchers and tax credits for those who want to send their kids to schools that teach homosexuality is a sin and that global warming is wrong and Muslims are, well suspect to say the least. So much for so many of these Christian schools. Education is supposed to expand our horizons not just confirm our prejudices. That is not education and no heart or brain gets stretched.

Our Secretary of Education never attended a public school. Neither did her children. She never went to a PTA Meeting or served on a local school board. She knows nothing of the struggles that the public schools in this country have faced. Or how teachers in those schools felt or feel.  Sightings is a news letter comes from the University of Chicago Divinity School. It was inaugurated by Martin Marty wise Church historian. I have always found this newsletter to be fair and thought provoking. The recent article on: "The Hidden Roots of Betsy Devos's Educational Policies" is worth the time. Read it for yourself. If you are disturbed by the direction our Public Education system is being challenged--don't just stand there--do something!

You might like this poem by William Matthews:

Schoolboys with Dog, Winter 

It’s dark when they scuff off to school. 
It’s good to trample the thin panes of casual
ice along the track where twice a week

a freight that used to stop here lugs grain 
and radiator hoses past us to a larger town. 
It’s good to cloud the paling mirror 

 of the dawn sky with your mouthwashed breath, 
and to trash and stamp against the way 
you’ve been overdressed and pudged 

 into your down jacket like a pastel 
sausage, and to be cruel to the cringing 
dog and then to thump it and hug it and croon 

to it nicknames. At last the pale sun rolls 
over the horizon. And look! 
The frosted windows of the schoolhouse gleam.
                                                              —William Matthews

*I don't like too lump Charter Schools in the same category of these others. They are providing a real need. Some of the other groups are too I am sure. But if you want to go to a private school--you should pay for it.

--Roger Lovette /

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