Former first lady Barbara Bush said on Greta Van Susteren’s “On the Record” last week: “We’ve got a real problem in public schools. … This is a national crisis. It is as bad as anything in our country.”
When Greta was pointing out from Barbara’s own op-ed piece that, “Texas [is] 36th in the nation [on] high school graduates. And 3.8 million Texans don’t have a high school diploma,” Mrs. Bush said, “No more, you’re killing us.”
Mrs. Bush was commendably protecting Texas pride as she called Greta not to cite any further degrading statistics about the state of Lone Star education, though she herself references it in her op-ed piece:
Texas ranks 49th in verbal SAT Scores, 47th in literacy and 46th in average math SAT scores.
Texas ranks 33rd in the nation on teacher salaries.
Such low verbal and literacy scores makes it even more unbelievable that, just this past week, some of our state’s educational administrators joined the feds in seeking to mandate Arabic classes for Texas children. No joke!
The Arabic studies program, funded by a five-year, $1.3 million Foreign Language Assistance Program federal grant, was to begin this semester at Cross Timbers Intermediate School in Mansfield School District, then spread to neighboring Davis Elementary and Howard Middle schools in the fall and to Summit High School by fall 2012.
Thank God for the parental passions and patriot fires of almost 200 parents who showed up at a school meeting last Monday night to question the wisdom of officials at Cross Timbers Intermediate School. Good for them! They are fighting in their own personal education Alamo and presently have the upper hand. For the moment, the Mansfield school district has backed off plans for its Arabic studies program.
With 14 percent of adult U.S. Americans (one in seven, or 32 million) being illiterate, those incapable of reading a newspaper or instructions on a prescription bottle, don’t you think federal monies could be put to better use, like by helping Americans to read and write English?
I so appreciate Barbara Bush’s non-politically correct stance on the primacy of English in America, as she echoed to Greta: “I’m against English as a second language. My great-grandmother came as a German. She didn’t have someone teach her English as a second language. She learned it in three months. It is survival. You see it in schools all around now where you are allowed to speak English only. And you sink or swim. They swim, because they are immigrants from all different countries. I’ve seen a school in Boston [where] they asked me to read. I said read? They all speak 80 different languages. In three months they learned English.”
As with Mrs. Bush, too, I’m an optimist and believe, with a lot of hard work and all of us involved, we can reform public education. And by “we” I mean we the people, not our governments. As even the title of the great movie and critique on the U.S. public education system, “Waiting for Superman,” alludes, it is you and I who are left to be the heroes to our posterity.
It is people like the 200 parents who are helping to overturn that Texas’ Mansfield Independent School District’s decision to mandate classes on Arabic who are showing the way. They prove another point Barbara Bush made to Greta last week: “I don’t think government can do everything at all. Parents, grandparents, neighbors, churches, everybody … we’ve got to get ourselves geared up and not be lazy parents and not be lazy neighbors, but we’ve got to help children. …”
What Mrs. Bush and I (and others in this educational reform movement) are essentially calling all of us to do is fight in a local education Alamo! Square off and fight against all the negative forces that besiege our children and impede their proper education. You don’t have to have kids to engage in this culture war; you only have to be concerned about their future –America’s future.
But let there be no doubt: There’s a particular rallying call to those parents who are sitting on the sidelines. Again, as Mrs. Bush further states in her op-ed piece, “Some parents forget they are their children’s first teachers, and the home is the first school. When our kids come home from school, do they read a book, or do they sit glued to the television or the Internet? Do they see us reading? Do we eat together, or does everybody “grab a bite” and dash out the door? Do we talk and listen? Do we help with homework? Are we active in the PTA? Do we make sure we attend all parent-teacher conferences, or do we use work as an excuse to skip out occasionally? It’s easier to be a lazy parent than a good parent, but with parenthood comes responsibility and accountability.”
The only way to get America and its educational system back on track is to take back the primary role of parenting from teachers and other societal guardians (including Big Brother government). That also includes not expecting those who lead our Sunday schools to be the primary spiritual teachers of our children, rather owning that area of their maturation as well.
What U.S. educational reform entails is that we all find a place in the battle. It might mean that you join an influential group that makes decisions in your local schools, or pressures those who do. Or it might mean that you participate, volunteer or give feedback to those powers who run your children’s classrooms – or that you become a leader, or influence those who are, who make curriculum decisions.
What I’m saying is, be proactive. Don’t wait for first lady Michelle Obama to correct your children’s school diet before you do something about it. Ensure that civic organizations in your area, including tea parties and churches, are activists in your public schools. Call parishioners out of the pews and into school community outreach.
Fighting for the next generation is why Gena and my life mission is to take physical education up a notch in Texas public schools by offering our KickStartKids program.
It all comes down to one question every citizen in our country must answer: are you spectating or fighting for America’s children in your local education Alamo?
(For more ideas, please go to the “action” items on the official “Waiting on Superman” website to see what you can do to join the educational reformation across the country and in your local community. Also, check out Kyle Olson and his Education Action Group Foundation’s website.)