“We busted out of class had to get away from those fools
We learned more from a three minute record than we ever learned in school.”

–Bruce Springsteen  No Surrender 

It’s the most wonderful time of year……for mothers (and fathers?) EVERYWHERE!  September is most definitely the most anticipated month (yes, T.S. Elliot, April can still be the cruelest) when we as conscientious, screen averse, organic food obsessed, activity particular, overzealous, helecopteresque, mothers (and fathers?), can send our loud (though articulate), argumentative (though Socratic), messy (though cerebrally preoccupied), opinionated (though individualistic, forward thinking, and original) progeny into the more than capable hands (and, if not, who at this point really cares) of institutionalized education.  I know I personally participated in the mass hysteria induced exhale that took place within moments, nay seconds, of the ubiquitous Facebook picture posting of our youthful ranks–well scrubbed, lightly tanned (though not too tan as a result of an entire summer’s worth of careful sunblock SPF 100+ application; the light tan a result of the fateful day dad was left in charge of UVA and UVB blockage), thoughtfully dressed, dutifully happy, diligently excited–as they headed off to another year of……well, we survived it, didn’t we?

Remember, in the chapter, “More Than Camp,” from Broken Hallelujah: notes from a marriage, when Lauren admitted that her family’s summer vacation “cost less than the ‘rest cure’ and therapeutic meds (she would) require if she had one more schedule-free kick back day of summer at home” with her three children?  Well, I believe that this is not an uncommon sentiment come August, when the tensions are high and no conflict is too small, no issue too trivial, NOT to incite a sibling rivalry which, at this point in the family’s togetherness, could induce a level of chaos which may potentially and problematically interfere with a parent’s commitment to daytime sobriety.  At the end of the summer, it is as if no amount of conservative Christian value infused Froyo could provide the SWEET glue that families everywhere crave to (F)ully (R)ely (O)n (G)-d.

In addition to providing a much needed reprieve from each other for parents and children alike, the public school system, to its credit, introduces its charges to many of the very ideals that form the philosophical foundation of this great country of ours.  Last school year’s sixth grade graduation ceremony provided a perfect example of how democracy and individualism could be flawlessly woven together to create an inspirational backdrop for the roughly 200 eager young students as they officially transitioned to the seventh grade.  All sub-groups (general education, gifted and talented, arts magnet) of the graduating class were grouped together as one, gracing the stage as they faced, in the semblance of a single democratic unit, this tremendous milestone.  Yet, they were given the opportunity to be seen and appreciated as the individuals they were, had become, throughout their brief seven years of elementary school.  They were called up one by one, as the announcer read each name and provided three accomplishments for which the diploma receiver should surely be proud.  For example, Abigail Bright (from GT 314) was lauded for “being a state chess champion for the third year in a row, playing piano at Carnegie Hall-twice, and competing as part of the winning Odyssey of the Mind team, which had been given the unique opportunity to travel to South America for the final competition,” while Charlie Dundun (from Gen Ed 101) was loudly applauded for “enjoying reduced fat milk with lunch, conquering his fear of the playground slide, and winning his class neat desk competition no less than six times.”

Of course, as the school year wears on, and the former carefree days of summer melt away like Sweet Frog on a child’s tongue, many once ecstatic mothers (and fathers?) worry as they witness, in the words yet again of that oft-quoted great American statesman and philosopher, Bruce Springsteen, “young faces grow sad and old and hearts of fire grow cold.”  So, in closing, it is incumbent upon us, the parents, to stoke the embers of that cooling fire–before the specter of standardized testing wipes away any and all remnants of free thought and creativity from our children’s minds and souls–and help instill for our frustrated, overworked, and sleep-deprived young, an experience of education which provides “a wide open country in (their) eyes/ and romantic dreams in (their) heads,” without, of course, resorting to homeschooling.

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