This has been an interesting week for the Norwich (CT) Public Schools and their Board of Education. I'd suggest you read all about it on their website (link from the city's website doesn't work, btw), but I know from experience that's not going to happen anytime soon. Monday evening, believing 'better a horrible ending than horrors without end', the Norwich City Council approved a 2009-2010 budget that, assuming State funding remains what it was (there is NO state budget, by the way), flat-funded the Board of Education.
In years past, and I've been to the barricades with fellow-parents on this one, there would be discord and discontent throughout the Rose City when the school budget was even looked at sideways by the City Manager and/or City Council. Unfortunately, as an idealist who got mugged by reality, I've long since recognized in the wonderful world of local politics, no matter the subject heading, it's always all about the Benjamins.
But the education portion of the budget is NOT what has parents buzzing, or more accurately, typing. The Board of Education Tuesday, after months of discussions and meetings, decided to institute (some are using the word 'impose') a school uniform policy for public school students through fifth grade. A quick review of the on-line comments leads me to conclude there's been a rush on tea bags at the local grocery store. If you go anywhere near Norwich Harbor be sure to bring lemon because you'll probably need it.
It's great to have a vigorous discussion on public education (I'm not sure 'must be on drugs' would be considered a major or minor premise on a logic tree...) but I'm of two minds. On the one hand, I wonder how passionate the same Norwich parents with opinions on school uniforms (I would have thought a slogan like 'Give me saddle shoes, or give me death' would resonate) are about matters of curricula. What are we teaching our children and how do we decide and determine what skills to foster in the 'now' to benefit all of us when we reach the 'then.' Norwich Public Schools, and the world in which they operate, have changed a great deal since my children were students and I'm not in the know anymore. I'd be a lot happier with a debate about the advantages of the scientific method and the value of empirical observation instead of analyzing the sales circular from Abercrombie and Fitch.
Conversely, why aren't Norwich parents in charge of dressing their own children? Or are some of us suggesting parents are, but are making poor choices? My wife picked out our children's wardrobes on school days, and on every other day come to think of it (And she chooses my wardrobe since I'd make a hash of it.) Do we have parents in Norwich who think their fourth graders should be allowed to dress like this week's MTV Pop-Tart or gang banger? We must. I see their progeny walking home, silent, sulky and sullen, from school every afternoon. Word to your mother (pull UP your pants).
Or is the part that most dismays me in this whole discussion, while admiring the passion of the online commentators, the casual relationship so many seem to have with approved and customary uses of grammar and spelling? Let's hope by the time the next school year begins and the dress code is implemented that the Hooked on Phonics folks have a clothing line. In the meantime, "When the sun beats down, and I lie on the bench, I can always hear them talk. Me, I'm just a lawnmower; You can tell by the way I walk."