One More Thanksgiving Gift


Before I leave Thanksgiving behind for the year and move on to Christmas—oh dear, I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet, although we did pick up a 7 foot tree at Costco last weekend—I have one more thing to share with you.
In the first five years after college I was a school teacher: I taught three years of third grade in a school that served a very rural, impoverished population, a year of pre-K at Florida State University’s parent cooperative nursery school while I got my master’s degree in early childhood education, and a year of fourth grade in a brand new pod-style school in Tallahassee’s first year of integration. Given my idealistic nature, introverted personality and esoteric interests, I found these jobs to be incredibly demanding, exhausting, and just plain hard.  How do teachers do it year after year? My admiration for them is boundless.
Anyway, my experiences during those years left an indelible impression about the crucial importance of a good education in the early years and the extreme difficulty of providing it. Ordinarily I’m a very tolerant person, but one thing I cannot tolerate is the ignorant attitudes of people—too often politicians, by the way—who cannot see beyond their narrow self-interests to face the reality that the future of our world rests on our success or failure to educate our children, all our children, as well as we possibly can.
Example: One of the first priorities of governor Rick Perry of Texas is education. He says the first thing he’d do as president is abolish the Department of Education because he thinks it’s redundant and he wants states to have block grants to use however they want. While this sounds good on the surface, reporter Joy Resmovits notes that in practice it means that without federal regulations, states would have fewer incentives to distribute federal dollars in ways that benefit children with special education needs, the poor, and minority students. These are the children I taught.  I know how desperately they and their families need all the help they can get, and I’m all too aware of the blinders worn by people who want to deny them this basic right. Overhaul the Department of Education? Sure! Abolish it? No way!
America is far behind China and other countries in student performance, yet as Resmovits notes, some people are so caught in the belief that federal government is evil that they want to cut its role in education regardless of the consequences. There are no simple answers to this problem, but really? Isn’t shutting down discourse at the federal level about education a bit extreme? Would it not be a step backwards into our cultural shadow of ignorance and prejudice? Is there no room for partnerships between federal and state governments? I’m not talking about partisan politics here. Many people in Perry’s own party disagree with him. I’m talking about setting aside our personal biases and agendas and instituting effective educational practices from the bottom up that will benefit all children and everyone’s future.
But enough about our shadows. What I really want to do with this post is look at the bright side of education. As I’ve noted before, my grandchildren are very fortunate to attend a truly excellent school that stresses the importance of diversity and puts its money where its values are in a variety of ways. The following video about a very special Thanksgiving celebration for the third-graders is one example. It features the people and customs of the Muscogee tribe of Native Americans. I hope you enjoy it. Oh, and thank you to all the teachers who show up every day and give so much of yourselves to our children. Your legacy will last long after most politicians are forgotten!

Join 5,851 other subscribers


0 Responses

  1. If Rick Perry is elected(no way it will happen) please make abolishing the Department of Education the third thing he wants to do! Great tape of the school event. Send Perry to the next field trip and make him “target” and hope they do not miss.

    1. Brother-in-Law: I think you have found your voice and your venue! You ought to write a humorous political rant blog! People on both sides will be so busy laughing they’ll forget to be mad at each other! Just let me know when you’re ready and I’ll help you get started!
      Love, Jeanie

  2. Beautiful gift!
    Whenever I hear the Tibetan Buddhist Gyuto Monks chant, I’m reminded of “Native American” chants; and that reminds me how small our planet really is and how closely related we really all are. It would be great if American children learned more about those facts in our schools. As the American song lyric goes, “Accentuate the positive; eliminate the negative; and don’t mess with Mr. In Between.”

  3. I lov e those kinds of connections. Did you know that there are many versions of the Cinderella story throughout the world? A Native American version is called The Turkey Girl, about a girl who had to take care of the turkeys while everyone else got to go to the pow wow. Chanting, Orphans, Warriors, these things are archetypal. I agree that we should focus less on our differences and teach our children more about the things that connect us.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent Posts