This is the final in a series of ten summertime articles that stubbornly insist that 80% of parents and 80% of educators actually agree on 80% of all issues (my 80/80/80 rule). Unfortunately, schools have become ground-zero for the culture wars, and national leaders from both sides seem to be strategically pitting parents against educators. Please remember that these talking heads know nothing about your local community, and in Oklahoma, your local public school is the community.
Visit any local school basketball game, bingo night, or band concert and you will know that community. Want to know your neighbors or fellow worshippers? Visit the school cafeteria during lunch, and for a truly deep dive, substitute! Because in Oklahoma, the local school is not only a perfect reflection of the local community, it is the community. This is just as true for inner city neighborhoods as it is for rural schools miles away from any town. Unfortunately, we are being inundated with stories about extreme agendas (from both sides) that terrify many parents, educators, and communities in Oklahoma.
One extreme seems to think all parents are incompetent, so parents should sit down and shut up when radical ideologues attempt to usurp or undermine parental rights. Educators with such radical views exist, but they do not represent most Oklahoma educators. Radical agendas are nothing new to public schools, so many of us educators are thankful that people are engaging. Please don’t assume that a few national leaders represent the views of your neighbor or pew partner who works in your public school.
The other extreme seems to think that all educators are incompetent (or evil), so public schools should be entirely dismantled and the funds funneled to for-profit companies. I have never met a parent who thinks their local school is perfect, but I also cannot remember ever meeting one who wants their local school closed or managed by a corporation. Most Oklahomans scratch their heads about those districts on the news because they know their local school staff so well.
Remember, your local school is not only a mirror of your local children but also local adults who work there. The 80/80/80 applies to communities, too, but the media focuses relentlessly on the 10% of extreme issues on the left and the right. They dismiss sensible people who keep things running and interact without demonizing each other as part of the problem, but I do not believe Oklahomans must choose between Marxism or crony capitalism. Most Oklahomans widely agree on issues such as the preeminence of the parent, adult-ready graduates, safety and security, social engineering, equal rights and equal opportunity, public money/public rules, and local control. This summer’s articles on those topics are archived at www.mostlyeducational.com if you wish to read them.
I am not naïve. Some of this nationwide craziness is certainly happening in Oklahoma, but most Oklahoma school districts welcome parents and community members with questions, so just talk to your superintendent, principal, or teacher if you have any doubts. Virtually everything in Oklahoma schools are open records (except student and personnel records), and most are already online, so there are too many eyes on schools to hide anything for long. Besides, in my experience, neither kids nor staff can keep secrets very well.
School starts soon in Oklahoma, and we face some weighty issues, but I pray that communities can use their dwindling local control to run the gauntlet together, as neighbors, relatives, friends, and fellow worshippers . . . with the civility that characterizes Oklahomans. Yours is likely the typical Oklahoma community and the typical Oklahoma school, so please watch battling news outlets with a critical eye. And if you have any doubts about your local school, go to a ballgame or a school board meeting. I also bet they need substitutes, if you’re interested.
Tom Deighan is the current Superintendent of Duncan Public Schools. He may be reached at email@example.com