The supposed experts in the school district, and the planners they hire, like to talk a lot about 21st century skills, as if they knew what the future was going to be. That makes you feel kind of ham strung, until you realize that no one knows what the future will be, not even the school district "experts" and hired "experts".
The only thing we really know about the future is that if our country is to remain great, our citizens will need a whole lot of character. My daughter teaches in college and she had some students that didn't turn in their assignments. She told me "These are good students mom, but they got a zero. They know what the rules are in my class and I wouldn't be preparing them for their future in the work world if I didn't teach them the discipline of following rules and meeting deadlines." She's a first year teacher but she gets it. School is not just about the subject you are learning, it's about the character that gets you there.
When I started teaching in 1975, and throughout my career as a student, schools taught the character that is required to succeed. When I was a girl, if you had hot lunch(most kids brought a sack), you got meat, potatoes, fruit, a vegetable, a cookie and a milk. You didn't get to throw food away, the teachers made you eat what you had. What did I learn from this? I learned that I didn't always get what I wanted (like cheese pizza everyday and salad bar like kids get today), I learned to be frugal, you don't waste things. What are kids learning today at school? Just ask any cafeteria worker or teacher, food is thrown away by the bucketfuls, as if it had no value at all.
Everyday we saluted the flag and sang "My Country Tis Of Thee". We had Washington's birthday and Lincoln's birthday off of school. We made American flags for Washington's birthday and our teachers read us stories about this great man. On Lincoln's birthday we made stove pipe hats and read about this great president. What did I learn from this? I learned to love my country and I learned to respect the character of these great men. I learned what it took to be a great American. What do our kids learn in school today? If they have a good teacher they may learn that Washington refused to be a king when the people asked. They may learn that Lincoln was a poor child that worked hard and taught himself to read. But, too often, these stories are lost. President Washington, our first president, isn't even honored anymore with a holiday, no wonder some kids leave school not even knowing who our first president was!! The "realists" insist that George Washington didn't cut down a cherry tree and refuse to tell a lie.
Abraham Lincoln, the great president that saved the union, isn't honored by having his birthday remembered either. The mental health advocates are sure Lincoln was mentally ill!! So instead of learning character through these great statesmen, our students are learning the values of special interest advocates. Maybe some of these advocates have a good message, but does it replace the love and respect of national heroes that teach us to be honest, strong and persevering?
At the last planning meeting here in Helena the experts arranged focus group discussions on "the big idea". They invited every special interest group they could think of from Food Share to preschool advocates. Our school plan is not about a "big idea", it's about special interest advocates and meeting their goals in our schools!! The first question, believe it or not, was "What is your mission? What brings you to the table?"This kind of question always seems so ridiculous to me. What would your mission be at school? Wouldn't it be to educate the children? Apparently not. One of the tables blathered on about how school is there to provide food, clothing and shelter!! You might ask " Is this for everyone or just the students?" I believe the answer would be everyone as they advocated for a community breakfast! So, what character are they advocating to teach the children? They want to teach the children that people can not make it on their own. Don't expect to make it on your own or for your parents to take care of you. Turn to the government for every need. They mentioned " children should never feel ashamed to ask for a clothing voucher". Our children come to school well clothed and with coats. They are fortunate to live in a country with a free enterprise system that makes our citizenry the wealthiest in the world. Our poor have more than poor people the world over. So why do we want to teach values that will destroy the entrepreneurial spirit of this nation when our children aren't even in that kind of need? This is a socialist world view that is destroying the character of our people and bankrupting our nation.
Have you noticed that we are starting to see trash just thrown on the ground now? We never had that before. People had responsibility, integrity and pride. Not the kind of pride that you get from a clothing voucher, the pride that comes from self discipline. The self discipline that you learn in school from the stories about the honor and self sacrifice of our national heroes. This is national pride, Americans don't throw garbage. They don't take drugs. They are not sexually promiscuous. They stand for honor, hard work and American know how. They don't borrow irresponsibly either. They are not victims.
If we want a future that is bright with honor, respect and self sacrifice we need to start teaching it to our children again. We need to teach them that they and their families CAN TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES! If they can't afford something maybe they don't need it. Maybe they'll be rich someday if they work hard enough and are careful with what they earn. Poor people in America become rich everyday. Most of us have more than our parents had. Our government needs to set the example by paying off its debts so these kids won't be overburdened with taxes and they'll have a chance to make it. The "big idea" should be to save America from this sorry pit of Socialist despair and debt. The truth is we can determine what our own future will be if we decide to teach character again instead of victimization. I was poor once. No one helped me. I worked, I planned and I dreamed. I had the values and ethics to set goals and endure self sacrifice. I was only 17 years old, but school and my parents had taught me that I could take care of myself, and I did. I'm not poor anymore. That's what we want for all of our children, that's the big idea. Teach children to be self sufficient. A good education and the values that built a nation will bring them and all of us to a brighter tomorrow. This is a future we know about. We've seen state run economies and socialist countries, THEY DON'T WORK!!! THEY LEAD TO CORRUPTION AND ECONOMIC COLLAPSE!! We don't need to guess about 21st century skills if we continue down this socialist road. History clearly tells us where we're heading. The national debt and deficit tell us where we are heading. We don't know what our future will be, but we know how to work toward a good future for all, by teaching our children the values that built the greatest nation on this earth.