Neil Postman said children are a message we send to a time we’ll never see. Because of the grim budget projections in nearly every sector of the economy, it is difficult for many of us to feel hopeful about our short term security, and even more challenging to imagine how the decisions we make today will impact our children, and their children, in the years that lie ahead. History will decide whether we were bold, innovative, thoughtful, and visionary enough to give the next generation the kind of world they deserve.
Faced with such devastating cuts to school programs and personnel, we don’t have the luxury to sit back and wait for the state and federal governments to take the first critical steps towards a brighter future. We have to act, based on what we know, and what we believe. I believe that the next wave of school improvement must include grassroots initiatives oriented around the actions of individuals, community groups, business, educators, and government.
The research in this area is clear – student achievement improves when parents and communities are involved with their schools. A recent poll on community participation in education reveals that Americans want to become more involved in improving their local schools but are struggling to find meaningful ways.
Last year, I initiated the Inside Education program to bring leaders from business and government into county classrooms, to view education firsthand and at every level. Recently, during a site visit of Pacific Elementary School in Davenport, the school’s greatly over-used server suddenly went down, completely interrupting the school’s communication systems. In a few quick phone calls, one of the Inside Education participants arranged to acquire a server that would more adequately serve the school’s needs.
One morning, one problem, one person, one phone call. With schools in need, the simple intervention of an individual can make a significant impact. When we act collectively, far greater change is possible. One of the boldest things each of us can do right now is to be willing to talk to one another and find out how our shared values can lead to a common vision.
I saw this happen just last week when two hundred preschool and kindergarten teachers gathered for the 1st Annual Together for Kindergarten Countywide Forum. At the end of an already long day, educators sat side by side to strategize ways to create a stronger transition from preschool to kindergarten. The event’s keynote speaker, Delaine Eastin, former California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, reminded this group of early childhood educators that they are the guardians of our democracy. “Preschool and kindergarten teachers have more to say about where America is going to be (in the future) than any group of people I could be talking to in California tonight.”
Delaine Easton’s powerful words remind us that we can and need to inspire one another, not just to survive these tough times, but to use them as the test of our collective spirit. This is not a time to bemoan the woeful economic predicament of our state and our schools. It is a time for tough choices and bold action. Through collaboration and innovation, let’s send a message that tells our children who we are and what we believe.
Find out more at Child Development Programs.