Dear President Obama,
While your suggestions to improve education are reasonable, I fear that they fail to address the more fundamental problems within our failing education institutions.
I had been a substitute teacher within the NYC Public School system. I visited many classrooms and met with many teachers who were barely able to make it through their work-day. The first rule-of-thumb for both teachers and students is survival. Our schools are no longer environments conducive to learning, but combat zones where learning has become a rare luxury. This problem has to be addressed before we throw more good money after bad.
The simple addition of more police has only addressed the most grievous crimes – physical assaults and possession of weapons. Often, I had observed police merely occupying their post, waiting for criminal activity to occur, while bullying, belittling and disruptive behavior continue unchecked. Instead, the school and teachers themselves must have adequate sanctions to address threatening and anti-social behavior.
However, this is not enough! Without an adequate rationale for the use of additional sanctions, this exercise of discipline will not arise any higher than “might makes right,” something that will breed cynicism.
Instead, it has to begin with public debate over our value systems. Is morality merely something that works for us, at least in most circumstances? Is it merely a matter of relativism, or are their objective moral absolutes that must not be violated, like treating others with respect, or respecting elders and those in authority? Unless we understand that these values are founded in an immutable, omniscient, and omnipotent God, they will always be subject to compromise whenever our values interfere with our immediate pleasures, like bullying or being the class-clown. These types of questions might be politically incorrect, but I think they are morally and pragmatically necessary. It is a moribund and myopic society that will refuse to entertain them.
Please consider opening such a dialogue!