It’s back-to-school day, for most of you students here in the hometown. Welcome back. (Yadkin and Bridges charter schools started last Wednesday.)
The first day of school is a joyous occasion, a day for reunions, a day that is bright and full of optimism. There’re introductions and preliminaries to go through on this first day, and books must be distributed on this first day before they can be opened, so there’s no homework yet and little strain on the gray matter.
So don’t let the dark clouds gathering distract from this fine day.
Don’t let the dark, threatening clouds of a withdrawal of federal funding spoil this fine day. The federal government is threatening to cut off more than $2 billion a year in vital funding for our schools and universities across the state in a dispute over the use of bathrooms.
No one is saying just what would happen if our schools lose billions of federal tax dollars. For all we know, they’d have to start holding school under a pine tree with kids doing math by drawing in the dirt with their fingers.
The state has sued the federal government, the federal government has sued the state, and it could be years before the courts clear up this tangled mess. So enjoy our nice schools while you can.
Don’t let the dark, threatening clouds of school choice spoil this day. Charter schools, private schools, voucher programs, home schools and internet schools all pose as rivals to our public school system. If more and more students are drawn away from our “general and uniform system of free public schools,” as the North Carolina constitution provides, then the schools get robbed of our interest and our support.
While students might like the idea of staying home and viewing their classes on screen via the internet while in their pajamas, that’s just not the way the real world works. The real world demands that you get up in the morning and head out the door.
If the old-fashioned, brick-and-mortar school filled with students and with Old Glory flying out front is outdated, you’ll have to convince me.
Don’t let the dark, threatening clouds of antisocial behavior spoil this day. Assaults, particularly sexual assaults, are alarming and are placing increased dependence on school resource officers to keep the peace. Suspensions and expulsions are rising. So are school dropout rates.
Society’s problems march into the schools, as broken families and a troubled economy leave their marks on students and interfere with the ability of some to learn and mature as they should. Video of an officer throwing a seated Spring Valley High School student to the floor in Columbia, South Carolina, last fall brought home the message that something is amiss.
But today is the first day of school. Smiles all around. Have a great year, everybody. You’re privileged beyond the dreams of some elsewhere in the world.
But keep an eye on those storm clouds.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.
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