Friday, November 19, 2010

WIGF Day 24: Democracy

There is a very silly bit of drama going on in our school district as of late...over the word "democracy", of all things. A group of parents have suddenly decided that we, as a public school system, are encouraging their students to become "part of our communist/socialist agenda" and are nitpicking over the terminology of our mission statement and values, claiming our district has need to be "saved" and using that as an attempt to rally other parents to... shut down our school district? I really don't understand the point of this whole thing or why they are doing something so ridiculous (like taking writings of certain philosophers out of context and trying to prove that if we quote the writings of one person, that we must agree with all of their writings, even the ones that are completely outrageous and have nothing to do with education) and complaining that public schools are "stealing" money (via taxes of course) away from people who rightly deserve to keep their monies. Where do I even start??? If you have a problem with the district your child is in, it is your responsibility to talk to teachers/principals, join the PTSA, elect officials who will support your ideals, or just take your kid out of public schools and homeschool them if it really bothers you that much.

While I am not thrilled with Utah school systems overall (mostly because I have a bias towards a K-12 education from back East), I have a lot of pride in my district, and know that as a teacher (and many of my colleagues) work more hours than I care to admit to make sure that ALL students have the opportunity to succeed, even when it means giving after school help, class sizes bordering 40, and attempting every semester to memorize all 240+ of my students names (which usually takes me half the semester, anyways!). I care very much about my job and my students and for a group of people to spend the time to pick apart wording and context where it is really not necessary is just sad to me. If these parents spent half the time helping or just spending time with their own kids instead of doing stuff like this, we would all stand to benefit. This is America, people. We live in a democracy, which is NOT a dirty word. The rest of this comes from an employee in the district, addressing the same issue:

"One of the major concerns expressed is the use of the word “democracy” in the district mission statement. In 2005, the School Board adopted the mission statement "Educating All Students to Ensure the Future of our Democracy." This idea was taken from the writings of Thomas Jefferson, who believed that all children, regardless of social class, deserve a basic education. He and other Founding Fathers wished to steer away from the meritocracy that had extended them certain privileges based on social class and extend those privileges—such as education—to all citizens. Many believe that basic education is provided for in the Constitution, but it is not. It is something for which Jefferson fought tirelessly.

"In the context of our mission statement, the word “democracy” is referring to "our American way of life," the same way it is used regularly by religious and political leaders. The fact that you are allowed to vote for a school board to represent you and your children is evidence of democracy. The fact that the “Save ASD” website could be created and opinions can be expressed freely and without legal repercussions is evidence of democracy. Our use of the term is not intended to be any kind of political statement or reference to any political party. The mission statement is referring to the fact that we all have a stewardship to prepare our students to become contributing citizens in our society. 

"To prepare students to become contributing citizens in our democracy, our American way of life. As district employees, we have the opportunity to work with students from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Upon graduation, they will go a variety of directions. Some will go to college, some will immediately enter the work force, some will get married, some will go into the army, etc. They need to be prepared to be contributing citizens, no matter what they choose to do after they graduate."

I am more than happy to have my children grow up in a place that heralds democracy.


Rachael said...

Ruth, I love this post. Coming from Michigan to Utah was a huge shocker for me in the education field also. I hate that people have turned "democracy" into a swear word. I wish that people (especially the ones here in Utah) would just open their eyes and see that public schools are not indoctrinating their students. Teachers do their best to teach the content and the values that are necessary for contributing members of society. Just like your colleague stated. I hope things get better down there. Alpine school district was really one of my favorite places to teach. Thanks for reminding me why I need to keep looking and stop settling for the bookstore.

Emily Rebecca Jacobs said...

So they complain about enaction of said "socialistic" system all the while taking full advantage of it & the democracy in place for them to voice such a hypocritical position? That's odd. Did I say odd? I meant stupid. If you really are against it then put your kid in a private school & pay for it yourself. If you think it's communistic then A) Reread the definition & examples of such a government & B) ask yourself how something that is voted for by the people can be considered socialist. Disagreeing with something (like Universal Healthcare) doesn't make it communist. Something we vote to enact can't be communistic. Polar opposite.

All the stories my mom has from dealing with students parents really anger me. I give props to you guys, because I could NEVER do it. I'd be fired within a couple weeks (days? hours? :)

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