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Educational lip service

Contributing writer

An impossibly short summer has come to a very abrupt end. It has been a summer of baseball and softball, of swim team and traveling, and of video games, late nights, and summer jobs.

Tomorrow morning parents will work at motivating their children to get out the door on time, students will grab their backpacks, and the unmarked intersections north and south of Main Street will not be safe to traverse until classes at the high school have started. Teachers will arrive ready to welcome the students, explain the expectations for the year, and dive into preparing the minds that will guide our country in the not so distant future.

As this school year begins, it is important that people in towns like ours and school districts like ours be very aware of what the implications of the actions of elected officials at the federal, state, and local level are for our students. The reality is that ballots cast last week, and ballots cast in November will have very real and very tangible effects upon the students that you and I interact with in our community.

This is not a column telling you how you should vote, but rather simply that when you are looking at candidates, one of the most important things you can learn about them is their position on public education.

The education talking points have been reduced to standardized testing, measuring teacher performance, and school finance. What we should be concerned about is whether our elected officials actually believe public education is valuable. Let me let you in on a secret: they will tell you they believe it is. That isn’t enough.

Do their children or grandchildren attend public school, or did a spouse, child, or grandchild ever earn a living working in a public school? If the answer to any of those questions is yes then they at least have a starting point to talk about education.

If all they have is children or grandchildren enrolled in private school, statistics and studies about public school education, or comments like, “This is how they are doing it in Texas (or some other state),” then I believe it is fair to expect more explanation from them about the value of public education when they come to the table.

We just witnessed global athletics at the highest level. America won the overall medal count and more importantly the gold medal count. I can hear the chants of, “USA! USA! USA!” still echoing in Wembley Stadium. But the very real truth is that if these last couple of weeks had been an academic competition, America would not be bringing home the most gold medals, and perhaps not even the most overall medals. While our elected officials have been telling us how important education is, they have managed to allow it to be a mediocre priority on the list of things they actually hope to accomplish while in office.

Perhaps none of this concerns you, but rest assured, the people in school now will be the ones responsible for our economic, physical, spiritual, and mental care in the very near future. It’s time as a community, a state, and a nation to make public education a priority for the sake of our present and our future.

Last modified Aug. 16, 2012

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