(Held every January, this week is National School Choice Week, which shines a spotlight on effective education options for every child. Independently planned by a diverse coalition of individuals, schools and organizations, NSCW features thousands of special events across the country. The Week is a nonpartisan and nonpolitical public awareness effort. Petra Academy acknowledges National School Choice Week – except for the dance, which is silly – and this letter from Mr. Dunham is part of that participation.)
Dear Sir or Madam,
We probably don’t know one another (though I’d be glad to amend that fact with a cup of coffee and a conversation), but I’m guessing a well-meaning friend forwarded this to you with the goal of starting, continuing, or finishing a discussion. While I don’t mean to meddle, it seems I already have, so in the absence of a proper introduction, perhaps we can follow the age-old advice of the parent/teacher conference: I won’t believe half of what I’ve heard about you if you won’t believe half of what you’ve heard about me.
I’m assuming you have kids of some sort – young ones, older ones, maybe even grandkids – and I’m assuming you love and care for them as deeply as I care for mine (four daughters, ages 18, 16, 14, and 13). Our love for our kids is what we share, followed closely by our sense of responsibility for them and their well being; thus, we have more in common as parents, adults, and human beings than the narrative concerning education often allows.
I know your kids are enrolled in a school, and I know there are reasons for your decision as to which, where, and why. Because no school is perfect, I’m sure there are things you like about your school and things you dislike about it; this is also true of most of the parents whose children attend Petra Academy, the school I lead. Because you’re involved, I hope you’ve taken the opportunity to voice your support of teachers and administration, as well as to offer your caring feedback, as both are invaluable (particularly when the former accompanies the latter).
While it can sometimes seem difficult to nail down what is right and wrong in the world, I know you believe there’s a difference between the two and want your kids to be able to tell the difference as well. I also know you want your kids to learn – the facts of math and the scientific method, truths from history, beauty in literature and languages, potential of computers and technology, joy in music, drama, and art, and competition in athletics – maybe because you (if you’re like me) don’t feel you learned enough about many of these when we were their ages.
Learning, of course, is what it’s all about, but not just learning that informs with knowledge; we want for our kids learning what transforms with wisdom how they see themselves, others, and the so-called “real” world. And, if we’re honest, we want the flavor of our children’s education to mirror our own vision of “the good life” because, let’s face it, we make choices not only out of what we know but out of what we love, just as our kids will.