To the editor:
Have you been in a public school lately? If not, I encourage you to walk the halls and notice the names on the lockers (parents are really creative), the artwork on the walls, and the faces of the children as they move to the computer room, gym, art or music room. Pause outside a classroom and listen. I think you will be inspired.
I am currently tutoring a 4th grader and am impressed with the way he is learning math. In the course of one week he, among other things, calculates the area and perimeter of triangles and rectangles, multiplies and divides numbers with decimals, converts fractions into percents, and labels coordinates on a grid. "Story problems" are part of every lesson, and students are taught to estimate, to imagine a reasonable answer before beginning their computations. What was learned last week is interspersed with new concepts, and important skills are reinforced.
The student body itself is a resource. Children who come from different backgrounds and experience learn from each other. Friendships help break down barriers. Unlike the adult world, our public schools require civil interaction and speech. I have seen a teacher mediate a dispute and help children say "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you."
Students are learning that facts are easily manipulated and that it is sometimes very difficult to distinguish between knowledge and opinion. Science can inform policy, but policy can twist science to fit a particular agenda. I celebrate the efforts of our public schools, because a republic such as ours depends on citizens who are wise, who accept the responsibility of evaluating their sources of information.
Our children are our greatest treasure. They are doing their best to navigate a fast-moving, complicated world, and they deserve our support. The public schools are doing their best to prepare students, and they, too, deserve our support. You might consider signing up to volunteer.
Not only will the children benefit from your experience and care, you will remember how beautiful a child can be.
Perhaps, most importantly, you will be reassured that our nation will be in good hands when these youngsters come of age.
Carolyn C. Peterson