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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Beneath The Tree

Well, Christmas came and went.

The approach of Christmas was ushered by delicious treats and heartwarming carols, and goodwill and cheer among friends and acquaintances.

But, on that joyous morning, there were no packages of increased state aid or mandate relief beneath the trees of New York superintendents this year. Not even a promise or hope of such presents.

I guess I'll have to adapt as I did many years ago whenever Santa forgot what I had on the top of my wish list. I need to appreciate what I received and make the most of the presents I unwrapped. It could be worse.

That is not exactly the mantra that one desires as a guide into the new year - "It could be worse." However, some people estimate that 99% of us either have already heard that tune in our head, or can expect to listen to it sometime soon. Moaning and groaning about what we don't have can reach the point of whining. Too much complaining, particularly at inappropriate times, can eventually become counter-productive. We need to express our concerns in an objective, articulate style while simultaneously undertaking efforts to discover creative alternatives and new solutions. Clearly, public schools are not alone in suffering from the impact of a depressed economy.

Rather, public schools must position and define themselves as economic engines that represent worthy investments in the future. Contrast that image with the perception that too many people have of schools as institutions with voracious appetites for expenditures fed by a simple formula, repeated each year, of adding a small percentage to the previous budget - without viable plans for new instructional programs or practices to leverage success, or the prospect of a commensurate increase in measurable performance indicators.

It's not fair to invite guilt on the part of taxpayers by pleading for money "for the kids." Schools need to be marketed for the value they add to a community, for the manner in which they help invent the future by promoting possibilities, for the bridges that learning builds from generation to generation, from the past through the present to the future, and for the transformational opportunities available to those who experience education. Education reaches far more than the learners who inhabit a school. Education is a central element in civilization. Thomas Jefferson advised that, "An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people."

It's not what education is, it's what education does! That's why education is worth the investment.

Now, it's our responsibility to explain that in a convincing fashion to a public weary of economic stress...

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