True to your school

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(HOST) Commentator Mike Martin was pleased that most Vermont towns passed their school budgets without a lot of fuss this year, and many towns voted to protect state education funds.

(MARTIN) I’ll never forget my son’s first week in kindergarten when he came home singing his school song. We were at the dinner table, and somebody said pass the chicken, and then he just started belting it out. It went like this,

“Edmunds, Edmunds Elementary
It’s a school, it’s a home, it’s a family.
It’s a place to grow with dignity
My school is Edmunds Elementary.”

Well, once he finished, we all laughed and clapped and told him how impressed we were. My wife and I beamed, basking in the warm glow of our son’s success. With talent like this, maybe he would become a star some day! How easily he had memorized
the lyrics! And he loves school! He’s enjoying it!

A few days later*since it was stuck in my head*I hummed his school song again, smiled, and thought about how corny it was.
It reminded me of those football fight songs from the 50’s or that
old Beach Boys song. I went to kindergarten in 1972, and even back then a school song sounded kind of hokey, like something from another era.

And now we’re in the era of school choice. School is becoming more and more just a product that you choose and purchase for your child. There was an article in the Burlington Free Press last year called “School Shopping”. It explained how many children today are home-schooled, or go to private school, or take Internet courses, or combine all of the above with some time in a public school. So I guess it’s understandable if people don’t show school spirit the way they used to.

But the public school tradition is a beautiful one. It’s where children from all kinds of backgrounds learn they may become President some day*because we live in a democracy. The public school is like the crucible of our republic; all different kinds of people are poured into it, get mixed together, and mostly come out as functioning members of our democracy.

Our country’s Founding Fathers knew this too. Jefferson main-
tained that democracy had to educate the masses. And even before him, way back in 1642, there was a law passed in Massachusetts that required towns to offer free instruction in reading and in “the laws of the land”. Historically, we’ve always thought of public schools as the place where every little American could go. If America is the Land of Opportunity, then, for most children, opportunity starts in public school.

Vermonters understand this. At town meetings across the state this year, most of them voted to pass their school budgets. They also voted against diverting money from the education fund to spend on other things. Even though it’s a big investment, they know that good schools strengthen their communities (and property values). If only all tax revenues were so well spent!

So, way to go Vermont! I don’t care if it does sound corny;
it’s good to be true to your school.

This is Mike Martin of Burlington.

Mike Martin writes about issues of culture and education and teaches French at Champlain Valley Union High School.

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