Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Carpe Diem

"I've never let school get in the way of my education."-Mark Twain.

Back in June, today seemed to be so far away, no one gave it any serious thought. The weeks of summer rushed by and those ads for back to school clothing and supplies started showing up more often in the papers and on TV and were increasingly harder to ignore.

The march of the calendar is inevitable and unstoppable. All of that led to all of this-today school opens in earnest for children in Norwich. It began a few days earlier in some parts of the state and perhaps a few days later in other places but for us and now, it's here.

Thousands of children from every neighborhood across the city, and in some instances from beyond the city limits, are heading for classrooms, language labs, music lessons and all of the other pieces and parts of what we think of when we say "education."

You'll see them today waiting for school buses, partners to walk home with or pals to hang out with afterwards--the enthusiastic beginners heading to kindergarten (do you remember the last time you felt about anything  the way those five-year-olds do today?), through those starting their final year at Norwich Free Academy and for whom the whole world waits.

When all is weighed and measured our success as adults, as parents, neighbors and residents isn't measured so much by the size of the Grand List (though a larger one is infinitely preferable to a smaller one), the number of businesses opening in Chelsea or expanding elsewhere or the number of bricks piled one upon the other we can concentrate in one area of the city, but rather, it  is how well we can make where we live someplace our children and their children want to come home to and call their own.

With all due respect to the public works and public safety professionals, not just here but across our nation, we spend the bulk of our taxes on education-it's the largest investment we make as citizens and we should expect the greatest of returns. Our neighbors who serve on the Board of Education have a huge, nearly overwhelming responsibility to both we, the people who chose them as our representatives, and to the children whose education they must help oversee.

In recent years, times have not been easy around here-tightening budgets helped drive cost efficiencies that closed two long-time neighborhood schools and systemic failures to effectively manage change have shifted the placement and purpose of the Thames River Academy and Stanton School. About those two, let there be NO mistake. The children did not fail, we failed them.

We, the adults who could and should have known better but chose to look away or decided we could wait another day or who created rationalizations for why we didn't help have to admit now, we have no greater obligation to ourselves than to help every child succeed.

"The purpose of an education, said Dr. Edward "Fast Eddie" Bloustein, President of Rutgers College to the Class of '74 when we were freshmen "is to learn the rules of the game better than anyone else. And then change the rules."  Today is the day to start to put that into practice. Ready, set, learn!
-bill kenny  

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