Sunday, April 25, 2010

Just wondering ... what do you think?

At the risk of duplicating a recent Facebook entry ---

I've found myself with a new pot to learn about and perhaps stew over.  Private school education.  At the elementary and secondary levels.  Now don't, as Ray used to say, get your buns in an uproar,.  I am a product of private school education.  I acknowledge, even if I don't always like, the need for public schools to be inclusive (a very good thing) and secular (not always so good), or at least accepting of the differing beliefs of their students.  Modify that.  I am old enough to expect schools, public or private, to be safe places where students are respectful of each other and their teachers, and don't have to worry about getting shot, knifed, raped, drugged, beaten, bullied or robbed in the course of an average day.

When I elect to send my children to a private school operated by a particular cultural, ethnic or religious group, do I have a right to complain when those children are exposed to or required to learn the values, language, and/or culture of the sponsoring group?  Should I expect that their values and traditions will be taught, practiced and upheld?  If my traditions and values are different, should I expect my traditions and values to be taught as well?  Remember, I made a choice to send my children to this school; it was not forced on me.

Should a private school have the right to require that their students meet certain minimum qualifications not imposed on public school students?  Those MQ's might involve academic ability, a special skill set nourished by the schools (I am thinking specifically of music, dance or theatrical schools which combine an academic curriculum with their artistic training), ethnicity or religious preference.  They might include something that has not yet occurred to me.  

What about dress codes?  If it is a Muslim school, should non-Muslim females be required to wear the headscarf (hijab)?  Or burkah?  If it is a Jewish school, should all males be required to wear the yarmulke or kippot? If nuns no longer wear habits, why do I see the girls from Sacred Heart Academy (Catholic) wearing the same uniform their counterparts were wearing 60+ years ago?  Is there an advantage to putting students in uniform?   The schools I attended did not require them.  We had another set of dress codes. Most related to whether girls could wear slacks to school (exception made on the days we worked in the cafeteria), when you had to wear shoes, and what constituted a shoe (as opposed to the far more casual slippers -- the footwear you mainland folk refer to as flip-flops).

Remember that we are talking only about private schools.  Schools that do not receive tax dollar funding.  Schools which might be supported by their sponsoring organizations, donations from alumni and friends, or raised by the efforts of students and parents.  Schools for which a  tuition (often hefty) is paid by parents, grandparents or by scholarships. Schools which exist to offer something other than (or in addition to) what is taught in public schools.

What about Charter Schools?  They get public money.  Some US Charter Schools teach in a language other than English.  Some cater to a specific skill set -- math, physical sciences, music, the arts.

Here's what Wikipedia says about Charter Schools.
Charter schools are elementary or secondary schools ... that receive public money (and like other schools, may also receive private donations) but have been freed from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each school's charter. Charter schools are opened and attended by choice. While charter schools provide an alternative to other public schools, they are part of the public education system and are not allowed to charge tuition. Where enrollment in a charter school is over subscribed, admission is frequently allocated by lottery-based admissions. In a 2008 survey of charter schools, 59% of the schools reported that they had a waiting list, averaging 198 students.  Some charter schools provide a curriculum that specializes in a certain field ...

I am particularly interested in the view of those who elect to send their children to private  or charter schools.  I'm also interested in the views of private school administrators.  Or the views of students who are passionate about private school education.  

Give thanks for those who teach in elementary and secondary schools, for they are woefully underpaid and under-appreciated.  Give thanks for our differences, for they are to our experience as spices are to our cooking.  

Don't forget to pray.  ... 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Kitten Tale -- and A Very Close Call

Today was the second day of a two-day Diocesan (read 'statewide') conference of Episcopalians in Hawaii.  My home church was the host parish, chosen because we have the largest physical plant on Oahu and can accommodate a group of 250 attendees.   Whatever the reason, only 55 registered.  There were 16 children, 8 presenters, and 3 Diocesan staff -- plus three of us who volunteered to do the hands-on stuff involved with making an event like this happen in your own facility.

It was Chuck Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop, who first heard the tiny sounds.  He was sitting outside the church during a workshop session, working on his laptop computer.  But the little squeeks and mews were persistent, and he is a curious man.  He and Lani Kaaihue, of the St. Andrew's Cathedral staff, searched until they found the source: a tiny kitten hiding in the potted plants at the base of the Columbarium adjacent to the church, wailing piteously.  About that time Linda and I (host parish volunteers) arrived from the kitchen.  Linda went in search of milk and a small bowl.  I talked to the kitten, trying to at least see what I was talking to.  Eventually Kitten backed into a corner, watching me cautiously.  Then came The Grab.  It took a bit to unhook all those kitten claws from the leaves of the plants behind which he was hiding, but out he came.   Yes, lots of claws, but not the frantic scratching and biting I was expecting.  This little guy was clearly afraid, but cuddled up against my chest, eventually relaxing enough to peep out and view the world.  He's been raised around people.

We took him to the Thrift Shop, hoping to find an animal carrier and a blanket.  Success on both counts.  A customer provided a baggie of cat food which she happened to have in her purse.

Safe in the carrier and left in a quiet corner of an empty meeting room, Kitten settled in.  He walked in the milk bowl, but ate every single crumb of the kitty kibbles.  He hid in a back corner of the carrier, positioned so he could see what was going on around him.

We told everyone who would listen that Kitten needed a home.  Many are allergic.  Others faced long airline trips home.  Still other have dogs.  Or just plain don't like cats.  Eventually, we approached the high school boys attending a basketball workshop in the gym adjacent to the kitchen.  Several came to check out Kitten.  One  brought his dad.

"We already have three cats." said Dad.

"Will it bite?" asked Dad.  I acknowledged that Kitten had hissed and spit at Kristy, but didn't bite me when I picked him up.

Dad talked quietly to Kitten, then gently opened the carrier door and slowly reached inside.  Kitten practically crawled into his had without any additional prompting.

"I guess we have four cats." said Dad.

Give thanks for compassionate souls who lovingly adopt the lost and strays of the world.  Give more thanks that I didn't have to bring Kitten home.
Don't forget to pray.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Abandoned Nest

Mama Dove left the nest for most of Easter afternoon, came home overnight, then left again on Monday.  She didn't reappear until very late afternoon.  Clearly, she had had her fill of that next, and perching atop a wriggling chick who filled the next almost completely in his own right.  By breakfast the next morning, the nest was empty.  Lacking a lifeless heap of feathers on the ground beneath the plumeria tree, Baby Dove must have learned the function of wings.  I hope to see a mama dove, trailed by a baby learning to forage for himself, in the yard as we scatter bread and grain scraps each afternoon.  

Wasn't he looking grown up and handsome on Monday afternoon?  

Birds -- and other critters -- know when it is time to allow their children to stretch their own wings and learn about independence, adulthood, and the responsibilities that go with them.  Pray that we humans can have as much wisdom.
Don't forget to pray ....   

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Another Dove Update

Mama Dove was  restless this morning.  Perhaps bcause it was morning.  Perhaps because her chick is growing and moving around, too. Look carefully, and you'll see baby peeking out under mom's feathery protection.  

Baby wiggles more.  Now you can see his face, this time under mom's wing.  

At first I thought baby was being fed.  It's possible Mama was grooming her chick.  

Eventually, Mama left the nest altogether.
Baby is looking more and more like a real bird, but still not the prettiest one in town!
Your day will come, baby.  

It is spring!  Easter is coming!  Give thanks for new life.
Don't forget to pray.