This I Believe

Barbara - Anchorage, Alaska
Entered on August 23, 2006

I believe in the power of a public school education. No other institution in our country solidifies us as Americans as much as our public schools.

Just the other day, my husband and I were at a locally owned restaurant when the young man behind the cash register said my name. He was the son of the owner and told me I had taught him English when he first arrived from Korea 12 years ago. He was excited to see me. He sat down at the table with us and told me he had graduated from college, was planning on opening a new restaurant and at the same time was getting his pilot’s license because he wanted to become a commercial pilot. As we continued chatting, he recalled lessons I had taught him and field trips we had taken.

While I occasionally see former students of mine, this one reminded me of why it is so important for our communities to put their resources in education. This student came to this country, learned English and the American way of life and now is very successful. In my 30 years as an educator, I have seen public education attacked, funded inadequately, and abandoned for private education for some families. Yet public school remains the place where students learn how to be Americans, learn the value of a free education no matter what economic background they are from, and learn how to socialize with people from all different ethnic backgrounds.

This is what makes our schools so great and it’s what makes our country so unique. Without this opportunity for all children, we become a splintered nation.

Our schools are the future of our country. Public schools develop responsible, valuable citizens.

My parents once told me of a birthday party they went to for one of their friends who was turning 80. He was the son of an immigrant. Before they sang Happy Birthday, he asked everyone to sing God Bless America. It sounded a little corny, but the thought of the opportunities this country had given him and my parents’ friends, moved me to tears. I’m sure he learned the song in his third grade public school classroom, just as I did.