Thursday, March 27, 2014

We Don't Need No Administration

It's been a hard last couple of days as a parent in the Fairfax County Public Schools.  Oh, my boys struggle along as they always do, showing that they have the academic aptitude of their father.  God help me, I know how my folks must have felt.

It's not about them and their struggles to be studious.  Neither is it their teachers.  They have some wonderful teachers.  Not all, but most.  The teachers meet my expectations.

It's the layers upon layers above, which add no value at all.  None. They show a remarkable obliviousness to the whole point and purpose of public education.  In point of fact, they feel more like an impediment to public education.

Examples:  My older son went on a wonderful trip with his chorus yesterday.  They're going to Nashville, where they're going to sing and experience that city.  But in preparation for that trip, forms and paranoia.  Every bag had to be pre-searched, meaning parents were required to attend a meeting in which bags were gone through, one by one, like our children were freakin' Al Qaeda.  Parents then had to certify that this had happened, and then the bags had to be locked away.

One long suffering teacher, rolling her eyes, reminded the kids that two things were particularly forbidden.  

First, nothing should be in the bags that could, and I'll use her words here, be considered a weapon by "an insane imagination."  If we've reached the point where both parents and teachers know that the expectations of the administration are insane, perhaps there's a problem.

Second, there could be no home-made food sent with our kids.  No sandwiches.  No cookies.  Nothing.  Prepackaged and processed foods were fine.  But anything else would be considered contraband, and confiscated.  Why?  Because drugs.  And Drugs.  Every cookie could be laced with marijuana!

Again, eye-rolling from parents and from teachers, as wild and mindless fear and lawyer-driven liability-o-phrenia create a reality where we aren't even allowed to send a sandwich on a trip with our own child.

And today, I'd volunteered to drive my younger son to a performance.  He and his class are performing Antigone at the Greek consulate, and I'm going to drive some of them in my van.  But having pulled this whole thing together wonderfully, and secured parent volunteers, the teacher was forced to jump through another hoop.

There was the parental permission slip, of course.  But then there was also another form, which I was made to fill out in order to volunteer to drive my own child and his friends.  That form certified that 1) I had a drivers license, 2) that my vehicle was legal for operation in the state of Virginia, and 3) That my vehicle was insured.  Every single form then needed to be signed and approved by the principal of the school.

So this form did what, exactly?  I could not drive without a license.  Presumably, I did not build my van out of cardboard and aluminum tubing in my garage.  Please certify that you are not breaking the law?  What the Sam Hill is the point of such a thing?  The form was a complete and total waste of time and energy.  Requiring it was just another stressor to lay on top of a teacher who's doing an amazing job trying to create opportunities for her students.

The defining purpose of public education, its reason for being, is to teach our children how to be citizens of a free and democratic republic.  

If our schools feel like a paranoid hyper-bureaucratic police state, they cannot accomplish that goal.