This is my favorite quote from Mark Twain, "Everyday a child is born who will change the world, but we don’t know who that child is." Here's the part he'd appreciate especially: nowhere can I find any reference suggesting he ever said it. I'm thinking maybe somewhere on the raft, Huck and Jim having a conversation or perhaps while Tom is collecting money from folks to paint his fence, but no luck and I didn't want it to sit there without an attempt at attribution lest you think it came from me. The last time I had an original thought, it died of loneliness.
The presentation by the Superintendent of the Norwich Public Schools last Tuesday before the City Council was witnessed live by fewer than fifty people. And if you subtract those from the Board of Education and the education professionals in the room, it was probably closer to two dozen.
I admit, it’s quality not quantity, but for something so many of us say is important, we leave a lot of the structure and funding to a handful of dedicated people across the community but then become unhappy at outcomes we chose to not choose.
As the beginning of a conversation goes, the presentation was low-key but if history is any indicator, it won’t stay that way for very long. When it comes to local budgets, it’s always all about the Benjamins (and everyone else whose taxes pay the bills).
In recent years, every year has been “the toughest budget year we’ve ever had” and that will be true again this year. Those who have or have had children in Norwich Public Schools know the value and understand the cost of public education but everyone, with and without children, pays those costs.
In case you haven’t noticed, the world we are giving our children is very different than the one we had at their age. Some Cold War Kids remember ducking under desks and turning away from windows-today we have more computers in our schools than at the Cape Kennedy during the Space Race, but also more metal detectors than in our penitentiaries. Every day we struggle to find a balance.
Today’s schools often function as surrogate parents to include breakfast and lunch for hungry minds and stomachs to match. And many times they’re a conduit for before and after school services desperately needed by stressed and distressed families many of whom bear little resemblance to the Waltons or the Huxtables.
The Industrial Revolution has yielded to the Age of Knowledge where skills and abilities must always be enhanced and expanded or we fall behind as citizens and as a society. And once that happens, you never catch up. The goal of education today is to learn the rules of the game better than anyone else to be able to change the rules.
If we hope to remain the nation that’s the envy of the rest of the world we have to accept that education is not an expense so much as it is an investment. We have to choose better than we have in recent years to maximize the advantages for everyone. If you think education is expensive, wait until you calculate the cost of ignorance.