Thursday, March 22, 2007

Response to Last Weeks Letter to the Editor.

Here is a response to the letter I wrote to the editor of our local newspaper. Last year I had another teacher respond to one of my letters too. (It's the second letter)Isn't it ironic how the people that are employed by the system seem to be the the most uptight about anyone who criticizes it. Wasn't it Upton Sinclair who said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." Upton Sinclair

Can do better

I am writing in response to last week’s letter from Curt Hubatch entitled “Limited choices.” My perspective is that of a teacher for the past nine years in the public education system in Webster and as a parent with two children in the Spooner school system (one a recent graduate).

Hubatch certainly portrays a bleak picture of life. It seems our lot is to have our creativity and wonder stifled at an early age by being placed in an institution where our choices are few and all decisions are made for us. We spend years watching the clock, wishing we were elsewhere only to end up in a dead-end job living a meaningless life. We then die afraid after spending time on life support.

And the culprit responsible for this dismal succession of events is our public educational system. So he will be voting “no” on the upcoming referendum as a way to strike back at this sorry state of affairs and to redress his 15-year-old grudge. How sad for him.

Contrary to Hubatch’s belief that our education system was designed to teach us to wish away our precious time, it actually was implemented as a means for society to formally pass on its culture, beliefs, and knowledge to our children.

The role of education in our country has evolved over the years, until now universal mandatory education is considered the norm and a foundation of our democracy.

At all times though, it has been influenced by and has reflected the prevailing attitudes and problems of the larger society rather than being a source of those problems. It is certainly an imperfect system and its outcomes arise directly from the quality of the teachers, students, parents, and resources the local community put into it.

The current building situation in Spooner reflects what occurred in the Webster school district about six years ago. The high school building was old, dilapidated, and increasingly inadequate to meet the current building and education standards. Several failed referendums were finally overturned after an open house brought many members of the community into the building to see what the conditions were. Voters realized that as a community they could do much better, and the referendum passed by an almost two-to-one majority vote. The results have been dramatic.

Morale among the students, staff, and community has increased. Community pride is very evident and really came out when their basketball team made a run in the playoffs that paralleled Spooner’s.

People use the facility for adult education classes, including a licensed practical nurse course and a University of Wisconsin-Extension Master Gardener class using the ITV [interactive television] facilities.

Community members use the weight-lifting room, and in the winter some walk the halls for exercise. There is an annual community talent show that packs the combination cafeteria/auditorium because of the enhanced seating, lighting, and sound facilities.

The drama department has produced several full-scale musicals, including West Side Story and Grease, that provided numerous students an opportunity to succeed in areas outside of the classroom. The new facility has allowed community members to choose to exercise their creativity and wonder in a variety of ways.

My children had and are receiving what my wife and I consider a first-rate high school education in Spooner. The school district offers students a wide variety of opportunities that include academics, athletics, music, drama, technical courses, driver’s ed, and community involvement. And all of this in spite of and not because of the present facilities.

The teachers, board, and the administration have done a marvelous job keeping the district viable in the face of increased state and federal education mandates and a concurrent decrease in revenue.

The present limited financial situation and the need to maintain an increasingly outdated structure is going to force some very hard choices. Future cutbacks are going to have a very negative impact on the ability of the district to carry out its goal of providing a quality education to as many students as possible.

In the April election, my wife and I are going to check “yes” in both boxes [new high school and additional program funds]. We are choosing to pay more money in property taxes and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to do this. We consider it money well-spent and an investment in the future of our children and community.

If the referendum fails again, the school district will somehow manage to muddle through and do what we as a society require it to do.

But we can and should do better.

1 comment:

Sonny said...

When that letter writer describes your opinion about school, to me it sounds true. I wouldn't even know he was arguing against it except for the tone of "certainly ... bleak" and "how sad" and the fact that he's voting the other way. He hasn't logically said anything against it. He only said the school system was designed to do something different, not that it doesn't do what you said. (What he said in opposition isn't even fully true, modern school was mostly designed to produce factory workers, and the children of factory workers accepted it and passed it on their children because they didn't know any better.)

In other words, you're right, and this other person is the sort of person who rejects any argument that gives him a sad feeling instead of an optimistically patriotic one.