Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Why is it Called Public Education
Public education is a hot topic across the United States and really across the world. So many things are written and studied about public education it is really difficult to sift through it all. “Research shows” is a phrase that people on both sides of an issue use frequently. This article is not about pedagogy, policy, or No Child Left Behind, but rather the personal side of education.
Public school officials deal with a variety of issues every day and many are not directly dealing with instruction. Counselors, administrators, and teachers deal with custody issues, students with mental illness, poverty, behavioral problems, and students that resent being placed in their current residence. Dealing with these types of issues is why it is called “public” school.
Every day is an opportunity to help a student with a different need. We never know who is going to walk through the front door and say, “I am here to enroll my child.” Schools must, and should, welcome them with open arms and ask, “How can we help your child?” Perhaps a student has been placed with a foster family because the parents were sent to prison. This child may certainly resent not being with their parents. It is not the school’s fault this occurred, and in fact most of the time the incident did not occur in the same county as the school. However, the school must step up to the plate and help the child adjust socially while still serving their academic needs. Obviously, a child entering school under these circumstances will be less than interested in the subjects being taught that day in class and will most likely lash out at the teachers trying to make sure they do their work.
Sometimes it is students having trouble at home that are sent to school after a sleepless night due to domestic violence. Many times students are sent to live with grandparents or non-custodial parents due to issues at home. This student enters the school with many things on their minds other than the subject matter they are taught. However, schools are charged with teaching every student and ensuring they learn and succeed.
Teaching students with problems beyond the scope of what schools were designed to do is the challenge faced today. Schools are expected to perform up to government standards regardless of the situation of the students. Schools must not use social conditions as an excuse. We know that good teachers, administrators, and schools find ways to teach all students regardless of outside circumstances.
The concept of providing a free and appropriate education to every student regardless of circumstance is a concept championed by the United States and is something we truly treasure. While it is true public education is not perfect and systemic changes are many times required, it is good to remember that public schools take students as they are. I think the quote on the Statue of Liberty says it best:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
This greeting was intended for immigrants entering our country, but it is just as appropriate for students entering our school. As a society we must continue to fight the good fight and ensure the gift of literacy and education is available to all of our children.
Posted by Tommy at 2:49 PM