The Norman Transcript

May 19, 2013

John Tullius’ cartoon is wrong about education

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

John Tullius’ last Saturday cartoon has jumped up and stepped right on my toes, along with, I suspect, the toes of teachers and school personnel all over town: “Growing up — we learned good morals, values and responsibility in school. My son said they skipped that part and went right into safe sex, drug prevention, self defense and gun safety.”

My interpretation of it is that schools just don’t much care about the character development of kids anymore. If one looks hard enough and in the worst of places, one may be able to find a few in which that is true, to the degree that the job is just too big to even address while keeping kids physically safe and trying to teach them something academic. But Tullius’ cartoon tells me two things, upon which I will expound a little bit.

As a frame of reference, I have been involved with Norman Public Schools since 1984, as a parent and then a school board member. Once again, I am involved on an almost daily basis, with grandchildren who go to Norman schools.

It sounds to me like you have not been involved in a Norman (or any other) school for a very, very long time. Schools are very much dedicated to helping parents develop good character in children and youth.

They are taught friendship skills and they are instructed in respectful behavior, along with the virtues of truthfulness and honesty.

Teachers help children learn to be responsible for their actions, words and work, plus how to express anger without hurting people. That’s not all, but you get the idea.

Given that some of the kids have been exposed to family violence, too much sexual content on television and worse, you can bank on the idea that schools are helping kids learn a whole lot that they need to learn, on top of their academics. 

It also strikes me that you may have been “drinking the radio talking-head-kool-aid.” There are national figures who make their living trying to incense people against public schools.

“They’ve taken God out of school.” Christians know very well that you could not do that if you wanted to, as it is believed by Christians that God is everywhere, in everyone who believes.

“They’ve taken prayer out of schools.” Schools won’t force prayers of any faith tradition on kids, but you can’t stop prayer, even if you want to. And should we have a school principal of an other-than-Christian faith try to impose school prayer on students — well, let’s see a cartoon about that.

“Don’t you think kids should recite the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, like we used to?” I have asked Facebook friends across the nation who post that question as though kids don’t do that anymore. I can’t find any schools where that doesn’t happen, except that there apparently are five states in which it is not required — which does not mean it isn’t being done at least part of the time. In Norman, it’s daily.

I would maintain that schools are doing more, rather than less, concerning character development than in the past. As our schools now serve special education students (any severely disabled kids in your school in the ’50s or earlier?), a more diverse mix of socioeconomic disparities and greater cultural diversity than ever before, along with the reflections of adults who think it is OK to bully people, there is much more to do in that area than in earlier times.

Rest assured that the teachers and school personnel who interact with today’s kids every weekday are probably better prepared than in “the good old days” to help children grow up to be kind, responsible, high-achieving adults. 

I see and interact with teachers, either in person or online, every single day. I am moved — often to tears — by how much they care about kids and the lengths to which they will go to help them learn and grow.

They are the embodiment of love for our children, and they are infinitely aware that, on many days, for some of the children and youth in our schools, they are the only contact they will make with people who show them responsibility, kindness and loving care.