30 October 2014

With a son in public school....

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I read articles like this and feel a catch in my throat every time, imagining my own kindergarten son sitting cross-legged in a closet, trying to be brave on just this side of fearful.

Though we live in a big city, the school Puck attends (and Tink will attend next year) is new, in a small subdivision in a good neighborhood. I feel that my children will be safe at that school.

And still, there is part of me that can't help thinking about what protocols the school has in place for these situations, and what if Puck's class is doing P.E. outside or in the hall on the way back from the library.

It's a parent thing, I'm sure. We love our children and worry about them, so when faced with the gratuitous and hyperbolic coverage traditionally referred to as "news," the mind tends to imagine what would happen if....

I would be out the door and to the school, knowing full well that I would not be allowed on school ground until everything was resolved.

I would stand with other mothers and fathers and siblings watching windows and doorways and children running along the sidewalk for the merest glimpse of a familiar dinosaur shirt and light-up Spider-Man shoes.

And I would rage--as I do now--that we live in a country that claims to value education and sees the problems that exist but governmental checkbooks prove over and over again that there are more important things than providing safe, healthy environments that foster learning. That we say we want the best for our children but refuse to do right by them.

That we live in a society in which four-year-old children have drills in order to prepare them for a gunman wandering the school in the same way I once crouched in hallways in my own elementary school, my hands laced over the back of my neck, pretending I wasn't really afraid of tornadoes.

When I was a kid, the threats that existed were of strangers trying to kidnap us, so we were taught not to talk to strangers, don't accept candy from strangers, yell and run if someone tries to kidnap you. When I was a kid, my parents taught me a password. If they sent someone I didn't know to pick me up, that person would know the password. (I will have a password for my children, as well.)

But times have changed. We've moved from warnings of "stranger danger" to lockdown drills.

This is not a rant about the decline of our society in the way so many conservatives try to blame liberals or gays or atheists or whoever else for increased crime and poverty and whatever else. Instead, this is a rant about the fact that in the midst of this decline of our society, which is seen and felt by 99 percent of Americans, too many people are doing nothing to fix it.

Many aspects of our system are broken, education included. And while I know there are many people working hard to make changes in any way they can, there are just as many people who stand by and complain about the situation, wailing, "Why doesn't anyone do anything? Think of the children!," shaking their heads sadly from their sofas.

They aren't active in the school districts, even when their children are in school. They don't attend PTA meetings or school board meetings. They don't contribute when events or fundraisers are schedule to benefit the schools.

And they complain about the way the schools are run and the way budgets are handled. They blast teachers and principals for not doing the right things without trying to understand all that's involved in the decisions they make every day.

They complain about protocols and policies in place that make it "hard" to drop off and pick up their kids, or take them out of school, then rage when a child is kidnapped from the school.

We can't have it both ways. If you want to not be involved, fine. But then you have no grounds to complain about the way things are. If you want changes, fine. Then get up off your ass and be a part of finding the solutions for your kids.

Puck is in kindergarten this year. I have not been as involved as I would like because of my work schedule and where we live in relation to the school, but next year will be different.

I want my kids to get a good education. And I'm willing to do what it takes to help make it happen.

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