I received this e-mail today from a regular Get Schooled reader and thought it was worth sharing.
Maureen, I have been an avid reader and occasional contributor to your blog for quite some time. Recently, the tone of the bloggers has become quite unsettling to me. It appears that many of your readers have taken an “us vs. them” mentality in the discussion of public education. Although anger and frustration surrounding educational issues are understandable with a weak economy and an apparent lack of leadership in the political and educational arenas, there is no reason to shortchange the people for whom the educational system was established. I am, of course, talking about the students. With that in mind, please allow me to share this letter to the students in public school systems. Feel free to use the letter as you wish. Erase it. Print it out and burn it. Whatever you want to do with it is all right by me. I feel better just having written it.
I am writing to apologize to you for the failure of my generation to give you adequate preparation for life beyond high school. Unfortunately, there are many well meaning, but misguided, adults who have handicapped you in your quest for a meaningful and productive life. Your parents, teachers, administrators, and political representatives have let you down. They have decided that you are simply not worth the effort it takes to prepare you for the future. Please do not take offense to this; as I stated earlier, they did mean well, but they forgot to put you and your needs first when it came to your education. I will address the failures of each group individually in the following paragraphs, but please accept this blanket apology for all concerned as the heartfelt sentiment it is.
I have opted to structure this apology according to the level of importance each of these groups holds in your life, so, obviously, your parents must come first. These are the people upon whom you rely for the most basic of human needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. They are also very instrumental in providing moral guidance and civic awareness. Unfortunately, many of them have fallen short in some (if not all) of these responsibilities. They have delegated these responsibilities to the state. They have failed to provide you with adequate nutrition, warm clothing, and safe housing. They rely on programs such as Aid for Dependent Children to do what they fail to do. Furthermore, they do not provide good examples of parenting skills for you to follow. Unfortunately, decades of research has shown that you will also fall victim to the trap of dependence on the state when you have children. By the example they are setting, they are promoting the same inadequacies in basic human needs for their own grandchildren.
Many of your parents do not actively participate in their communities. Choosing instead, to ignore their responsibility to elect the officials who represent them and make policies which have a direct impact on your lives. They make inadequate excuses for this behavior such as “It doesn’t matter who wins; they are all crooks anyway” and “I’m just not interested in that stuff.” Their lack of participation will guarantee that your needs will not be considered by those elected.
As a final insult to you, many of your parents will not teach you right from wrong. You will grow up thinking that anything is all right as long as one does not get caught, or, if caught, does not get punished. Your parents are the most important adults in your lives and many of them have failed you, and for that, I offer apologies from my generation.
Your teachers have failed you as well. Many of them have become complacent in their jobs. They no longer fulfill their responsibility to educate you, but have chosen to provide you with an easy way out. They do not wish to “rock the boat” when it comes to your education. They refuse to demand excellence from you in the classroom for fear of reprimand or losing their paychecks. They believe it is far better to maintain the status quo than to be seen as one who challenges his or her superiors, so they let you slide by. Thus assuring that you will be unable to compete academically with your counterparts in the global economy. Many of them simply do not care whether you gain any skills under their tutelage and, for this, I apologize on their behalf.
The administrators at your schools have also let you down. Many of them have forgotten their responsibility to support you and your teachers. They have decided to play political games with your education. Some have practiced dishonesty in representing your needs to their superiors which assures that those needs will not be met. Many have practiced nepotism at your expense: promoting relatives or unqualified friends to work as their underlings and further impairing your educational opportunities. Some have even misappropriated funds provided for learning materials, such as textbooks. For their failures, I apologize to you.
Finally, your elected officials have failed you. They have failed to provide adequate compensation for those people in the educational community who really do care about your future. They have failed to hold your parents, teachers, and administrators responsible for their misdeeds and enact legislation which would give you an “adequate education” as mandated in many government documents including the constitution of the state of Georgia. They have eliminated restrictions on the number of students in class. They have diverted tax money from your education. Many of them have refused to allow their children to attend school with you, opting to send them to private schools instead. This will give their children large advantage over you when you leave high school. They do not have a vested interest in your success, and, for that, I apologize on their behalf.
Students, I wish you well. I know you are capable of great things in spite of the failures of these adults. You have my apologies but not my sympathy. Sympathy breeds resignation to one’s current circumstance, and that is unacceptable! You must rise above the circumstances forced upon you! There is no other choice for your survival! And you will not only survive but excel despite these failures and frustrations! Good luck to you, and I look forward to the remarkable achievements you will make during your lifetimes
PS. If I have offended any adult who reads this letter, please be aware that there were no absolutes used in its composition. I opted to use the words ”many” and “some” rather than “all” or “every.” Therefore, if you are offended, you must be one of those discussed in its body.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog