Saturday, March 13, 2010

We "Learn to live," Mr. President

"Through this plan we are setting an ambitious goal: All students should graduate from high school prepared for college and a career – no matter who you are or where you come from."

President Obama, March 13, 2010

Mr. President, can we cut through the crap?

I'm a retired pediatrician. A lot of children are damaged--some by bad luck, many by bad choices made by others.

Yes, the photo is unsettling, yes, too many children have been lost because we did not acknowledge their potential, but your rhetoric is fanning a dangerous fire.

I teach healthy children, and I teach damaged children. I teach wealthy children, and I teach poor children. I teach children with fancy orthodontia, and children with rotting teeth.

I teach America, Mr. President. If you cannot see America from your perch in D.C., please spend a weekend back home in Chicago and remember the man you once were, or pretended to be.

Come to Bloomfield--our motto here is "Learn to live." Some of us have careers, some of us have jobs. Some of us went to college, some of us were apprenticed. Most of us are happy, even the good chunk of us who have neither careers nor degrees.

Focus on getting the jobs back, and towns like Bloomfield will fill them well. We send soldiers to war--our street signs carry the names of those killed and missing in action. We have young folks overseas now. We helped process uranium during World War II, and have the contaminated useless land to show for it.

Learn to live. Not learn to earn, not learn to serve Microsoft, but simply learn to live. Most of my students will leave BHS with decent academic skills and decent decency skills.

All the degrees in the world won't fix the plumbing. All the degrees in the world will not land a job that's now in Asia. All the degrees in the world will not make you a better citizen, friend, or lover.

Learn to live, Mr. President, and let us go about our business doing the same. And if you need the name of a decent carpenter, a decent bakery, a decent school, give me a call. We got them right here in Bloomfield, the America outside the Beltway.

The disturbing photo from Temple University is real, and it's human.
The classroom photo is from Bloomfield, 1914, found here, shared at the Bloomfield Historical site by David Petillo.


Barry Bachenheimer said...

Hear Hear. In my opinion, the purpose of school is not to prepare kids for the world of work. The purpose of school is to help them think, communicate, and socialize, while exposing them to topics and interests that they would never explore if left up to their own devices.

doyle said...

Dear Barry,

I'm real glad you responded to this one--the silence made me nervous. Your succinct summary of the purpose of education might be quoted at the Bloomfield BOE meeting next Tuesday (with attribution, of course).

It's interesting--without your guidance the past couple of years, I would not be the same teacher I am today.