Back-to-school jitters

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Sept. 1, 2015

We are all immersed in the daunting tasks of getting ready for and then settling back into school after a long (or in this case, not so long) summer.  Be it kindergarten or college, this is the busiest and most focused time of the year for any family.  We are signing up not only for new leases and “lunch bucks,” but also for what sets our children on a course of learning for an entire year.  With all the tasks and transitions ahead, we may forget what that learning should be all about.

This September, the NewBostonPost will address some of the issues at the forefront of education reform.  We will bring you columns and articles on charter schools, private schools, and public schools, and we will address the state of our children’s education. It is not our goal to diminish or question any teacher’s idealism, commitment, effort, or bravery.  We will highlight factors that seem to facilitate educational success and critique policies that hold teachers and students back.

When we say good bye to our children in the morning, we part with them for the greater part of the day. In fact, children spend more time at school than with their parents. It is only natural then that parents hope for an education that constitutes an extension of their own efforts to form their child. Unfortunately however, it appears that many parents today perceive public schools in tension with their own values and standards. Much of this has to do with different perceptions of what is meaningful in life.

Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning attributes mental health (and, based on his own experiences as an Auschwitz inmate, even survival) to a person’s perception of meaning and purpose in life.  Such meaning, once found, is highly personalized but absolutely essential to human dignity, confidence, and perseverance and constitutes “man’s capacity to rise above his outward fate.” While Frankl’s book was a great success after World War II, other contemporary bestsellers make a similar point. Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? sold over 30 million copies. The search for meaning seems to be on everybody’s mind.  The individual outcome of this question is here irrelevant.  What matters is that the search for meaning is essential to our conception of what constitutes a good education.

As parents, it should be our prerogative to shape our children’s sense of meaning as we see fit. The education we choose for our offspring should be informed by our own view of what constitutes meaning in life. It is in this area of personal choice that parents’ preferences should be respected. The NewBostonPost’s September content reflects the importance of giving parents a choice when it comes to their children’s education. We all agree that the love and dedication of parents counts for more than the dedication of any teacher.  Ultimately, the choice of meaning should be left to them.

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