A Modest Proposal: Make the Public School a Place to Educate the Public

Every year, our high schools pay homage to the graduating seniors.  I think every valedictorian includes the line, “Graduation isn’t the end; it’s just the beginning of the next step of our journey,” in the their perfunctory speech at the graduation ceremony.

It’s been uttered at the four high school graduations I was privileged to be invited to, since there were a limited number of tickets for them for family members only.  I was also invited to several college graduation ceremonies, since I was one of the key people who funded their college experience.

As for the public high school graduation, using the same rationale, shouldn’t the people who fund the experience, the members of the community, be invited, to see the results of their investment?  Shouldn’t everyone in the community at least receive a graduation program, showing the scholarships and achievement recognitions which have been awarded to the youth of the community?

Perhaps it’s time for public school districts to not simply honor the seniors, as in the senior class, but to honor the seniors of the community who are funding their educational experience through their tax dollars.

But let’s go one step further than that, since many school districts could claim they host a senior citizens lunch every year.

A couple of hours at the school.

Big whoop.

School districts are great for asking for parents and grandparents to volunteer – in the office, for activities, etc. – but that’s asking for even more from the local community.  Not only are school districts receiving treasure from seniors, but they’re also asking for time and talent.

While that’s a way to “involve” members of the community, it’s not a way to “engage” them.  An organization needs to first “serve” their constituencies; that is, provide some type of service, so that engagement is organic, and comes forth from the community.

And what happens to those seniors who graduate from high school?  They go to college, and, more often than not, that college experience means living away from home.

Once they’re away from home, there’s a chance that they’re not coming back…at least not to their home community to give back to the community that funded their public schooling.

Trade school, however, usually keeps students close to home, and they end up working in and growing the community that helped to form them.

But let’s consider the elderly community member who misses her grandchildren because they’re either grown or in a different city.  Wouldn’t it be great if she could visit the school once a month and read a story to the children in kindergarten?

Or what about those seniors who want to know more about the computer so they can see pictures of their grandchildren on Facebook, communicate via text, and become familiar with new digital technologies as their world continues to advance faster than it ever has before in history?  Holding weekly tech classes for them might be a way to continue to engage their minds and, for some, give them a different place to go than the casino.

The interaction between generations is an important one, and one that needs to be nurtured.  There are many reason why this is important, such as fostering communication between cultures as well as opening new doors of friendship, as well as stemming the tide of meanness and hate that happen when people are isolated from one another.

Sure, someone’s going to say, “But what about the children’s safety?  We want to control the environment our children are in so they continue to be safe.”

And that’s precisely the issue.

Criminal background checks are definitely important, but controlling the environment and constricting the environment are two different things.  The unfortunate thing is that we use those words interchangeably, and constriction does not support a life-giving culture.

Remember the Jordan River that flows through the Sea of Galilee which is full of life.  The river controls the flow of water in and out.  The Jordan River ends at the Dead Sea, where the flow is simply constricted, with no outlet…and nothing life-giving lives there.