How much can we expect from schools?

April 23, 2012

As we listen to people who have various opinions regarding the distribution of condoms in the Springfield Public Schools, it is clear that there are many valid points being made on both sides of this issues. Having said that, I would suggest that the most important point in the editorial appears in the last paragraph, where you comment on what the public schools are asked to do and then how people react whether or not those things are adopted by the school system.

For many years, I have maintained that before people criticize the public schools they should take into account the fact that the schools have been put in the position of absolving parents of their responsibilities and taking on those responsibilities in many areas.

The point is that we have made our public schools into social service agencies rather than educational facilities in the strictest sense of that philosophy. In doing so, we have necessarily recognized the breakdown of the family and then turned to our schools to fill the gaps that parents will not or cannot fill themselves. Somewhere in the midst of all the social services provided by the schools we then expect them to excel in academics, but not at the expense of leaving any social needs unattended. The matter of distributing condoms simply reinforces the idea that we have not yet decided how we really want our public schools to function-as educational facilities; as social service agencies; as surrogate parents, etc. I would suggest that a well-planned, well balanced curriculum of both academic and social needs would go a long way towards such issues as the condom issue having an appropriate place in the schools without so much angst involved.

This is just one of many practical life experience matters that should be addressed at home but must be addressed in school systems where homes and families are severely dysfunctional in setting the necessary standards for their children that would support the public schools rather than blame the staff in the public schools for not being effective surrogates, although still being dedicated to providing a practical and effective education.

How much can we expect our teachers, counselors and administrators to accomplish with all of the additional life cycle responsibilities we keep adding to the six hours a day that they see our children?

The real issue here is not condoms, but rather whose responsibility it is to address such issues. Let's decide what we want our public schools to represent before we engage in criticism of a picture of public education that is far from clear.

Allen G. Zippin

Longmeadow

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