Education and Liberty

Next week our nation will celebrate its 238th birthday.   Though we live in challenging times and America’s standing in the world is not what it once was, I still believe America is a big deal worth celebrating!   No other nation in history has been as generous, friendly, and committed to liberty.

The founders of our country were united in their belief that education was a pillar of the country they had fought to create.   They knew instinctively that liberty would be one of the first casualties if America failed to provide an education that emphasized knowledge and virtue. 903222_f260

Following their advice, our education system must be rich in content so students have the knowledge necessary to preserve liberty.    Following their example, we can only overcome tyranny as a virtuous nation.

In 1786, a decade after the American revolution, Declaration of Independence signer Benjamin Rush wrote a letter to a friend.   His words from way back then are certainly applicable now.

Most of the distresses of our country, and of the [opinions] which Europeans have formed of us, have arisen from the mistaken belief that the American Revolution is over.   This is so far from being the case that we have only finished the first act of the great drama.  We have changed our forms of government, but it remains yet to effect a revolution in our principles, opinions, and manners as to accommodate them to the forms of government we have adopted.  This is the most difficult part of the business of the patriots and legislators of our country.   It requires more wisdom and fortitude than to expel or to reduce armies into captivity.  I wish to see this idea inculcated by your pen.  Call upon the rulers of our country to lay the foundations of their empire in knowledge as well as virtue.  Let our common people be compelled by law to give their children (what is most commonly called) a good English education.  Let schoolmasters of every description and morals be subjected to examination before we employ them…This plan of general education alone will render the American Revolution a blessing to mankind.[1]  (emphasis added)

Our founders had clarity about what it would take for America to endure.   They knew that students who understood the principles upon which America was founded would be willing to fight both evil and entitlement in order to preserve liberty.

Though America is not worthy of worship, it is worthy of study.   It is not perfect and certainly has blemishes in its history that students should understand.  But they should also know that America has also stood strong in the face of tyranny and tragedy on behalf of ourselves and others less fortunate.

On this July 4th, take time to talk to your children about America.   Visit the local library and check out some good children’s books about American history.   Take an online field trip through some of the Smithsonian museums (or take a vacation to Washington, D.C).

And when election time comes, whether local, state, or national, take your children with you to the voting booth.   Show them what America means to you.

[1] Bennett, William J. “Our Sacred Honor.”  Simon & Schuster.  New York, NY  pg. 252-253 ISBN: 0-684-84138-X

Copper Valley Chamber of Commerce Meeting

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of speaking to the attendees of the Copper Valley Chamber of Commerce’s monthly meeting.  The gathering was held at the Gakona Lodge with a delicious meal hosted by the new owners Cliff Potter and family.

After my presentation, we had a lengthy time for questions and discussion.   I greatly appreciated the encouragement offered by members of the Chamber as they asked their questions and shared their own views regarding education and the changing context of our community.   It was a refreshing reminder that our community sticks together in tough times and is quick to use the lessons learned from difficult times experienced many years ago. Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 6.37.10 PM

The discussion covered a variety of topics.   We discussed the Common Core, budget, enrollment, technology, future opportunities and the district’s efforts to address current and future challenges.   The questions were insightful, specific, and supportive.    It was the kind of opportunity to interact with the community that ultimately benefits our students.

Here are some of the questions summarized and paraphrased:

1) Does the Common Core curriculum in the Copper River School District include some of the disturbing content that has been reported in the national press?

2) What is the district doing to attract skilled teachers?

3) Does the district have any plans to mitigate the budget challenges coming due to low enrollment?   What cuts are expected in the future?

4) Are the standards lower than what was expected of students in the past – 75 years ago?

5) Are we getting the support we need from our elected state representatives?

6) What is the timeline for the potential residential program and academy?   How will the planning grant for the residential program be used?

7) What is the district doing to reduce energy costs?

As you can see, it was a robust discussion based on great questions.    In the coming weeks and months, I’ll try to address all of these questions in the Snippets.   You can ask more questions by using the comments section at the bottom of this post.

Special thanks to Jeremy Weld and the Copper Valley Chamber of Commerce for inviting me to speak and facilitating connections between the CRSD and community.   Thanks also to Matt and Judith Lorenz for this space to communicate with you each week in the Copper River Record.

June 12, 2014 Snippets – General Updates

This is a “General Updates Edition” of the CRSD Snippets:

  • The 2014-2015 school calendar is available at www.crsd.us;
  • 2014-2015 school supply lists are available at www.crsd.us;
  • Parents should have received results from the 2014 Standard-Based Assessments for their children.  If you have not received the results, please contact the school or district office;
  • Schedules for students in grades 9-12 were sent home the last week of school.  If you have not received your student’s 2014-2015 high school schedule, please contact Mr. Lorence at jlorence@crsd.us or the district office at 822-3234 ext. 223;
  • Parents of Kindergarten, First, and Second graders should have received results from required literacy screenings (AIMSweb).   If you did not receive the AIMSweb results, please contact the school or district office;
  • Governor Parnell signed the FY15 Capital Budget which includes a $275,000 planning grant to study the feasibility of a residential/online academy located in the Copper Valley. CRSD The CRSD Board and administrators will begin the planning process in July.   More information will be posted after the initial planning meetings;
  • Slana School will be receiving a new 24Kw generator this summer to replace an older 60Kw generator that is currently in use.   The generator is expected to reduce operational costs.   Generating our own electricity in Slana is cheaper than purchasing electricity from Alaska Power and Telephone at the current rate of over 90¢ a kilowatt hour;
  • The Alaska Energy Authority is scheduled to install a bio-mass boiler at Kenny Lake School this summer.  The unit will initially burn wood pellets and offset the cost of heating fuel.   Hopefully the unit will result in a substantial cost savings for the CRSD and pave the way for additional units in district;
  • The community garden is growing in more ways than one.   The plants started by Glennallen students are growing quickly in the summer sun.  The size of the garden is also growing as volunteers continue adding more beds and growing area.   A shed built by CRSD shop students has also been placed near the garden.  If you are interested in helping maintain the garden over the summer, place contact Ann Biddle at annbiddle@cvinternet.net or Tamara Hamby at tehamby@hotmail.com;
  • Curriculum samples being considered for adoption can still be reviewed at the district office.   Please stop by between 9AM and 4PM Monday through Thursday.    You can also view some of the materials online at http://www.crsd.us/curriculum.html;
  • The Board of Education met on June 3rd for its regular monthly meeting.  They took the following action:
    • Approved the 2nd Reading of the FY15 CRSD Budget;
    • Approved the 2014-2015 renewal and replacement computer purchase;
    • Approved a request from residents of Gakona to landscape the Gakona School playground and field;
    • Approved the 2014-2015 student handbook;
    • Other information and related documents regarding the June 3rd meeting can be found at http://www.crsd.us/board-of-education.html;
  • The CRSD Board Policy Committee will be meeting at 12:00PM on June 11th to review Alaska Association of School Boards recommended board policy updates.

Please stop by our website for more CRSD news and information.   While you’re visiting our website, you can sign up for our mailing list to receive announcements and updates via email.   You will also find links to our Facebook and Twitter pages.