Let me take you back to about a month ago, when my husband and I attended an awards ceremony for work. Sitting at the table, the discussion came around to politics. One individual clearly leaned towards the Tea Party, one individual was clearly a Liberal Democrat. There was also a moderate Republican and two Independents. The conversation group covered a broad spectrum of political beliefs and perspectives. Here's the interesting thing-not once did the conversation become hostile. Everyone kept talking, and bottom line, we were all in agreement that in the best interest of the country it would be best if our politicians would work together! The "change" that we all voted for, regardless of political persuasion was for communication and cooperation-not gridlock! Although we might not fully agree with each other's positions we could understand and see merit it some of the points that were being made from both sides.
Now, let's talk about this week. I got a call from school (never something that a parent wants to get because usually it's not good news-7 children, 4 graduates, I have yet to get a "good" phone call). My son is a Senior. He is due to graduate this year. He's having some issues but they couldn't give me anything specific. Meanwhile, I'm sitting at home trying to figure out what is going on and my "mommy senses" are tingling! Life hasn't been easy but I try not to complain because it could be so much worse. Long story short, my son would like to change his course load (which isn't going to happen because the system just can't handle that sort of thing) so the other option is, he could graduate at semester. But it looks like they won't let him because again, the system is not designed to handle such a choice. Which leaves me with a really tough choice-force him to go when he is wanting to move on or pull him out of school and let him get his GED so he can move on to doing what he really wants to do. You need to understand that my son is super oober brilliant (and I'm not just saying that because I am his mother). In all seriousness, he is not only artistically talented, he is Tesla/Einstein/Edison smart! He used to get really bad grades in one of his math classes which made no sense until I found out what was going on. He was doing the math homework, he would put down the answer (and it was right) but he wouldn't show his work. That's because he was doing it all in his head! Because he didn't write it down, he got marked down, even though the answer was correct. That's how the system works. Thank God, he has a couple of teachers who see his talent and encourage and support him, which is why I think he's been able to hang in there this long! Both assure me that if he decided to go in to engineering as a career he would be utterly brilliant! And they tell him that fact over and over again!
Basically, I feel like the school district is writing him off. If a child can not or does not fit the system, there is no mechanism in place for those who march to a different drum beat. I do not, in any way, blame the teachers. As far as I'm concerned there are gifted individuals who deserve sainthood for what they try to do for the students! I have friends who use their own money to buy not only supplies, but food because they care so much, that they want to do whatever they can to help these children succeed! There are things that they would love to do differently, but they have the same problem-the system was not designed for variances in ways of doing things. They are as equally frustrated as I am!
Frustration-it seems to be a season of frustration! As a society, there is frustration from all sectors-right, left and in between! We, as a society, have agreed to certain laws and procedures, and there are certain systems in place. There's a fly in the ointment-the systems are not working, change needs to happen and it's not happening so people are frustrated!
A lot of my blog posts feature thoughts from Proverbs, but I've been struck by how much the Bible talks about treating each other fairly, helping the poor, giving voice to the voiceless. It is a theme that runs from one end of the Bible to the other-Old and New Testament! A just society acts in the best interests of everyone, not just a select few. It doesn't mean that individuals are not allowed to be successful. What it does mean though, is that those who are well off have a responsibility to help others (and I don't mean just money). A just system contains two words that lots of people get very uncomfortable using or talking about. A just system has ethics and morals.
Here's how my Webster's dictionary defines these words:
ethic-conforming with an accepted standard of good behavior
moral-concerned with right and wrong and the distinctions between them
Which brings me around to the American education system. I understand the need to have a basic set of standards that we expect all of our children to know before they graduate. What we fail to acknowledge is that some students learn faster, or differently. Not every student will be able to learn simply from a book. Some students need hands on experiences. Some students need to hear the information to process it. Some students need alternatives so they do not fall through the cracks. Teachers need to be given the flexibility to teach in multiple learning styles. New Hampshire had an idea that they proposed a few years ago-I don't know if they followed through with it or not, but it was a pretty good idea! Students would take a standard course load through Sophomore year. After that, they could opt for a college track or a vocational track. The idea is that it would lower the drop out rate and it would use a child's natural "bent" (or as we say in the church world gifts and graces) in order to prepare them for something that fit their learning style. Essentially, they would create an individualized education plan (or IEP). As a community, they looked at the problem (the drop out rate) and worked together to come up with a viable solution. Perfect? No. A step in the right direction? Yes. That's where a just system begins. Ethically, morally, we have an obligation to help our children learn the skills they need to be successful. To achieve that, we can not talk past each other and point fingers, we need to talk with and work with each other to come up with solutions.
The bottom line ethically and morally can be summed up in this one thing-do unto others as you would have others do unto to you. I have yet to hear anyone say "what a terrible idea!"
Pray that we can all choose to work together with this simple rule in mind. We have more common ground with each other than we think! We can get the system on track again if we're willing to work together! That is what individuals in a just, ethical and moral society do-they work together, without putting each other down. What a concept!