We must protect public education

Published 10:16 pm Tuesday, June 20, 2017

fight for public education. I understand how public education opens doors for so many, from the powerfully privileged to the penniless poor. I know from personal experience.

My life is a living example. That’s why I fight for public education. My father was unable to obtain an education. He did not complete first grade. My mother had to sign his name for him. If she was not present, he marked an “X” for a signature.

My father was a very smart man, but he was unable to obtain an education. The doors of education were closed to him.

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As a result, he was economically limited for the rest of his life. My father wanted his children to have the education he did not have. Without public education, his children could not get the education he wanted them to have.

If they were not educated, they would face the same backbreaking, low-paying work he did all his life. He really wanted more for his children.

My mother went to the seventh grade. She was proud of her seventh-grade education. But she wanted more for her many children. She was so proud that twelve of thirteen children graduated from high school. The other child died while yet a baby. Without public education, her dreams for her children could not be fulfilled. She made certain that every child obtained at least a high school education.

My mother did not fail to get a high school education because of her intelligence. She was one of the smartest and wisest persons I have known in my soon-to-be 75 years.

My father did not fail to get a basic education because of his intelligence. He was also one of the smartest persons I have known.

Society blocked the education door on my father.  Society closed the door on my mother. And both paid the price for the rest of their lives. I know that my mother and father were proud that 10 of their 12 living children attended college.

But they were more proud that all of their children graduated from high school. A high school education is not much these days, but it was something 50 or so years ago. It was the necessary foundation for so many other opportunities, including college and law school. My mother had every one of our high school graduation photos lined up on a shelf in the kitchen-den. It was her favorite room and the most used room in her home.

She smiled every time she looked at the graduation photos. She saw her dreams being fulfilled through her children. For years, our foreparents fought to make public education available to everyone.

When my mother graduated from the 7th grade that was as far as Black children could go in North Baldwin County. There was no high school for black children, but there were high schools for white children. By the time her children came of age, there was a high school. More doors were open for us than for my mother and father. She made sure we entered those doors. We are duty bound to keep these doors open. I am pained when I see the myriad of attacks on public education.

Every time an attack comes forth, I am reminded how important public education was for my parents. I am reminded what it meant to my parents and what it means to me. It’s really terrible that the attacks on public education keep coming. However, its even worse that the attacks come as wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. They pretend they are trying to save the least of these from education failure. But they don’t care about public education. They don’t care about the least of these.

They have other purposes. So the many and varied attacks keep coming. And they weaken public education. When I was in Germany recently, the discussion was about making public education better. There was no movement to create alternatives. Public education is very practical in Germany.  And it is free all the way through college and university.

I was out of high school three years before I went to college. If we had the German system, I could have gone straight to college. We can learn from Germany. 

The debate should be about improving public education rather than creating alternatives to public education. The ruse is always about diverting funds from public education to private education to help children in public education. It makes no sense. It’s peculiar that virtually all of those seeking alternatives to public education came over the public education bridge.

Now they want to burn the bridge that brought them over. Does that make any sense?

I always remember the bridge that brought me over. More importantly, I honor the bridge that brought me over. I work to make the bridge stronger and wider so that more of those who follow can also cross over safely. Some do not just divert funds from public education to private education; they divert such funds to a variety of causes.

This is just as destructive although less hypocritical. When we see actions that do not make any sense, just follow the money trail. It will lead us to the greedy wolves lurking in the forest. It’s a never-ending struggle.

It is so easy to take for granted that which has served us so well. That which we take for granted, others see as lucrative opportunities to enrich fellow travelers. We must protect public education.