Thursday, January 5, 2017

On Free and Public Education for All

I went to private schools all my life until I came to the United States at age 16.  Not because my family was well off or belonged to an elite class, but because that was the only way to get a decent education.  My father worked three jobs and my mother made great sacrifices so we could pay that private school tuition.  Getting a spot at one of those private schools was not an easy matter either.  My father had to pull many strings to get us into the best schools we could afford.  Public education was for the poor and it was a poor and broken system.  That country is today the Islamic Republic of Iran, a country not known for progress, justice or preservation of human rights.

My children went to private schools all their lives, until they came to the United States.  My husband and I had to settle for what passed as education for them, all the while supplementing it at home with whatever we could.  Getting your child into a private institution was one of the nightmares many families dealt with.  Parents had to find a spot as soon as the child was born.  Public education was for the poor and it was a poor and broken system.  That country is today the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, a major oil producing country where hunger, poverty and crime is the reality of more and more of its people.

I consider the American Public School System a sacred institution.  Free and public education is what has made America the country that it is. Only in America do we open the doors of our schools to ALL children, of all colors, of all classes and of all abilities.  It is not an easy task, educating such a diverse population.  But we wouldn’t and shouldn’t have it any other way.  We declared our independence with these words:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Free and public schools make these promises into reality.

If we continue to callously pull the rug from under public schools by allowing vouchers and charter schools to take the much needed funds, if we continue to beat  down the hard working public school teachers that work well beyond their contracted hours for what is really a stipend and not a salary, if we continue to allow people that have no training or background in education, child development and learning theory to make school policies, we may end up with a public school system that is only for the poor and it will be a poor and broken system. 

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