June 10. 1972
The committee gathered at 8:00 p.m. sharp. In addition to the original committee, a politician and a group of parents joined the group. The meeting started with a report by the father and housewife. They started their report by reviewing how the educational program was handled. Each parent assumed the responsibility for their own children’s education with a few families doubling up.
The report was interrupted by a hostile parent. “I don’t see how we can teach our children anything with all those other kids in the neighborhood interrupting us. It’s hard enough to keep these wild kids interested for an hour without being interrupted by those undisciplined neighbor children. ”
This remark brought a number of parents to their feet, frantically trying to get the floor. One finally shouted, “You should talk, you have less control of your children than anyone!”
The chairman quickly brought the meeting under control and requested a report on achievement for the year. He asked for an explanation of the test results reported in the paper. It looks like we scored below the national and state averages in reading and math. He also noted that there was a noticeable difference between family scores.
“We are aware of this, but the test didn’t test the things we were teaching,” the housewife retorted. “You can’t evaluate us by just one test and besides other districts are cheating by teaching the test. We tried to put some emphasis on health, the arts, and children’s self-concepts. We were more interested in children having broad skills in reading and math rather than teaching the children just to answer specific questions on one test.”
“This may be true,” answered the chairman, “but other districts are using the same test and we must look good in the public eye. This is nearly as bad as having a losing football season.”
Another parent jumped to her feet and lashed out at the chairman, “It’s easy for you to criticize, but if you had the kids in our neighborhood who hate school and haven’t had the experiences of kids in better neighborhoods, you’d have low scores too. We had two dumb kids in our area that brought our scores down.”
“That’s no excuse,” replied the chairman. “The question is, what are we going to do about this situation?”
“With the rising costs of books and supplies and an increase in baby sitting wages, we need financial help from the community,” replied the housewife.
“More money!” the farmer and realtor screamed in unison. “Our property tax has already doubled with the big raise imposed by the police department. I can’t understand the reason for his increase and how come we didn’t have an opportunity to vote on it?”
The police chief meekly rose to answer the question. “With all these kids running the streets with nothing to do, our crime and vandalism has doubled. Our correctional institutions are bulging at the seams. We were forced to increase our police force and absorb the added cost of confinement. You must also remember that the only taxes you get to vote on are school taxes,” he concluded.
The business community also had a complaint. The elimination of the school districts payroll and expenditures had a significant effect on their volume of business.
The last major complaint came from the politician. “The closing of schools has shifted the fight for integration from the schools back to housing. You remember the block busting and other turmoil we had before we moved this problem to the schools. We need to shift this problem somewhere else as the politicians don’t have the time or a solution.”
The meeting became very quiet as everyone had exhausted their frustrations and no solution was in sight.
“Maybe we should open the schools again,” the housewife muttered. “I’m tired of having the criticism for education, finance, and politics. The schools may not be too hot, but we have to have someone to blame for all these problems.”
“Sorry,” replied the chairman, “I checked and 90% of the school personnel have found other jobs paying twice the money they made teaching and they don’t have to defend all their actions to thousands of people. I know that the superintendent is making $100,000 a year in corporate management and once teachers got a look at the outside world, they found that people with an education and ambition could make a lot of money. I guess we’ll have to find another solution.”
A frightening silence shrouded the room. No one spoke for a moment that seemed like an eternity. At last the politician struggled slowly to his feet. All eyes focused on their leader who would surely lead them out of their dilemma.
“Fellow citizens, cast off you fears and follow me. As your leader, I have handled many problems like this. I was instrumental in pushing our social and financial problems unto the schools in the first place and know in which direction we should move. The church has been free of responsibility for many years and it is, time they start sharing in this task. I propose that we turn this whole problem over to the church.”
A look of relief was reflected in the faces of the committee members, who with bowed heads gave a unanimous “Amen.”
Although this was written in 1972 things haven’t changed much as using education and teachers as scapegoats for guilt feelings of parents and teachers fostered by the media and politicians. A large percentage of our teachers are reaching a point of discouragement with their jobs and looking for other career opportunities. I have advised my college-attending grandchildren to look closely before becoming involved in education.