I missed being with you today. You were in my thoughts as I tried to wrap my head and heart around some challenging thinking about the relevance of public education in America, Michigan, and in Northview.
As you know, I am in Dayton, OH at the Kettering Foundation today and tomorrow. I was invited by Corky O’Callaghan, author of the soon to be published book, America’s Schools at a Turning Point. I am spending time with several Superintendents from Ohio in a facilitated discussion regarding “how do citizens work together?” The primary belief of the Foundation is “through democratic practices citizens can turn every day routines into democratic practices that give them more control over their future.”
“The Foundation’s research suggests that when democracy is working as it should, these three elements are aligned:
- Citizens who are civically engaged and can make sound choices about their future
- Communities of citizens acting together to address common problems
- Institutions with public legitimacy that contribute to strengthening the work of citizens”
The discussion is being facilitated by Kettering Foundation staff members who have asked questions that force us to think deeply about the implications of current conditions that affect public education. Their premiss has a simple elegance “opportunities for democratic practice grow out of the ordinary questions people ask one another when something threatens their collective well being.”
Quite honestly, today has really challenged my thinking about how we engage our citizens in the process of educating the young people in Northview. Prior to dinner tonight, Foundation President David Mathews spent a little time with our group discussing the importance of public education and how we ask our citizens to be involved. David is the former President of the University of Alabama and served our country as the U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Gerald R. Ford. He suggested we ask our citizens “what can you do?” rather than “how can you help us?”
Several questions have haunted me this evening:
- Do the families of our students understand what is happening in Michigan and what are the implications for our students?
- Do the citizens in Northview, who do not have children in our schools, understand the implications?
- How do we let them know?
- Have we asked them “what can you do” to help educate the young people in Northview?
- Is public education important enough to spend some of your discretionary energy to keep our public schools a viable and relevant education partner in the education process?
- How strong is our emotional and spiritual connection?
- How do we go about engaging the Northview citizens in answering the question “what is the right thing to do?
- What are the implications for a first grade student named Travis if we don’t act now?
I don’t have answers for the questions and I am asking for your help.
Specifically, are there 15 Northview citizens who read this blog, with or without children in our schools, who are willing to host a coffee in their homes sometime in the next three months to discuss the questions? I am asking you to invite several people from your circles of influence to attend and discuss the questions? If you are willing, contact me directly to schedule dates/times.
As I walked to the parking lot of the Kettering Foundation to catch a ride back to the hotel tonight I stared down at my feet. Something was missing.
The shoes were black not red and it is Thursday. Sorry about that Travis. I should have asked for your help when I packed my bag for the trip. !After all you have coached me to “remember the important stuff!”
See you next Thursday. I will be the one wearing the red tennis shoes and asking our citizens for help to find the answers to my questions.
Sincerely and With Great Respect,
Mike Paskewicz, Superintendent