If It’s Broken, Don’t Fix It

Yesterday I joined about 20 other area religious leaders for a meeting with the school superintendent for our county.  At his invitation, we were gathered for lunch and to discuss how the school district and religious leaders might work more closely together for the benefit of the county’s children.  

It went as many of these sorts of meetings go.  Very congenial, with lots of pleasant compliments and thank-yous back and forth for inviting and attending and sharing and listening.  All of which are important things, to be sure.  I believe the Superintendent cares about the children of the county, and I believe he knows that the religious leaders of the county care as well.  Coordinating our efforts to some degree makes a lot of sense – particularly in light of continued shrinking education budgets.
However, after two hours of conversational and food-based mastication, there wasn’t much to show for the meeting.  E-mail addresses were exchanged.  The attendees will be put on the school district’s mailing list so we know what is going on in the district.  We were encouraged to send our information to the Superintendent’s office so that they know what we’re doing.
There were plenty of inquiries about how we might reach the children that the school district knows need help, but who the school district does not have the expertise or the resources to help.  Expertise and resources that many of the area religious institutions do have.  But of course there’s the line of separation of church and state that needs to be observed.  Everyone there was more than willing to acknowledge that.  The Superintendent was well-spoken about wanting to find ways to work with us that are permissible.
But a few major roadblocks stand in the way.  The district is forbidden from disseminating information regarding events and activities outside of a very narrow predefined nature.  No outside groups are allowed to advertise events or services in the schools.  While organizations of any kind can rent space in a school for an event or activity, they are not allowed to advertise in any way to the school that the event is going on.  
We lamented the fact that kids are under such pressure these days – academically, personally, socially, sexually, technologically.  We all expressed a desire to assist with this, but there was no indication that this much-needed help would be allowed, or that the district was interested in even fighting for it to be allowed.  We gathered together to eat a lunch to talk about how broken things are, and ultimately how the best we can hope for is to prop up the broken system, because actually fixing the problems that our children face is not an option.  
That’s mildly frustrating.
The Superintendent reiterated several times that he hoped we would communicate to teachers and administrators if we had specific information about children in our congregations and their classrooms, information about life issues and other events that might help teachers and administers better respond to the children.  But other than vague assurances of the desire to work together, no real options were made available.    
The Superintendent touted his insistence that teachers who fail to perform and fail to pursue training and education to help them perform better will not be retained in the district, regardless of union pressures.  But what’s needed is exactly that same sort of bravado in dealing with the system as a whole.  At what point – if ever – are we going to admit that the secular onslaught in the past 50 years has been destructive in education, not beneficial?  And when will religious organizations be publicly acknowledged as the resources and partners that we are and can be, rather than as less-than-honorable institutions out to make a quick buck or somehow brainwash someone into a profession of faith?  
The food was good.  The people were good.  But the conversation was disappointing, and until the system starts seeing the need for change, or until people outside the system begin demanding that it change – it isn’t going to.  And children are going to continue to suffer despite everyone wishing they could help.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s