Friday, September 11, 2009

The Paris News Strikes Again!

Denise and I went to see "Julie and Julia" a week or so ago, and during the part where Julie is setting up her blog for the first time, Denise turned to me and said: "so, are you still blogging?" to which I replied, "not so's you'd notice, huh?!?" Between life - and Facebook - the blogging has gone by the wayside. So, here's proof that I DO still blog. I know I haven't in a long while - its just that we spent a busy, busy summer doing tons of new and different things. Someday, I'll blog about them.

Now - on to The Paris News. Six years ago, after the whole Nazi flag flap (has it really been six years??), I wrote what I still consider to be the finest piece I have ever written about the whole hoo-hah and submitted it to The Paris News for publication. A couple of weeks went by, and the paper printed tons of letters - both from locals and outsiders - and mine never made it to print. One evening, well after the hubbub had died down, I got a call from Philip Hamilton, who was the editor at the time. He apologized profusely, and said that my letter had gotten lost on his desk. "I know it's sort of water under the bridge," he said, "but it's really a good piece, and I'd still like to print it if you want me to." I told him that I thought it was too late, it was the paper's loss, but thanks anyway.

Fast forward to this week: one of the paper's regular guest columnists - one of our home-grown finest - had a column about the flap over the audacity of a sitting president wanting to speak to school children about the importance of education. Here's a direct quote from the guy: "We have far more concerns in the United States for the President to be involved in than the education system." Holy CRAP. If the education of our future leaders isn't the most important thing on the president's agenda, it ought to move right up to the top. TODAY.

So I wrote another letter on Tuesday. I emailed it to the current editor of the newspaper, Mary Madewell. Days went by, and....{insert sounds of crickets chirping here} nothing. Other letters about the issue showed up in the paper, so yesterday, I sent another email asking, in a nice way: what the heck?!? I got an email from Mary this morning saying that apparently, my email got lost in her inbox, and she's so sorry, and she doesn't know how this happened, and could she print it this coming Monday?

I said no. Too late, and besides, if I had anything to say in the newspaper now, it would be about the crass, embarrassing, low-class, school-yard-bully-wannabe behavior of the supposedly esteemed Congressman from South Carolina.

So anyway, I think I'll give up on trying to get anything into The Paris News. Maybe I should have put some typos in it - they seem to like printing typos.

However, not wanting a decent piece of writing to go totally to waste, I am posting here, for all five of my regular readers to see, my response to Charles Melton's column of September 7th:

To the Editor:

Every time you walk through that classroom door, make it your mission to get a good education. Don't do it just because your parents, or even the President, tells you. Do it for yourselves. Do it for your future. And while you're at it, help a little brother or sister to learn, or maybe even Mom or Dad. Let me know how you're doing. Write me a letter -- and I'm serious about this one -- write me a letter about ways you can help us achieve our goals. I think you know the address.”

Words from a president to schoolchildren across America, meant to inspire learning, meant to encourage children to stay in school and complete their education. But if I understood Charles Melton correctly, certainly not words that any president should ever utter at any time.

The interesting thing about the above quote? It is from a speech given on October 1, 1991, by then-president George H.W. Bush to students at Alice Deal Junior High School in the District of Columbia, and broadcast live to schools across the nation by CNN, PBS, and the NBC Radio Network.

Or, what about this? “we're entering one of the most exciting times in history, a time of unlimited possibilities, bounded only by the size of your imagination, the depth of your heart, and the character of your courage. More than two centuries of American history -- the contributions of the millions of people who have come before us have been given to us as our birthright. All we can do to earn what we've received is to dream large dreams, to live lives of kindness, and to keep faith with the unfinished vision of the greatness and wonder of America.

That’s from a speech given by Ronald Reagan on November 14, 1988, to a group of schoolchildren in the White House, also broadcast live to schools across the country on C-SPAN and the Instructional Television Network.

Apparently, as does President Obama, our previous presidents have seen the value in speaking directly to students. After all, what better way to promote the value of education, of patriotism, of setting high expectations for oneself and one’s community, than by speaking directly to the part of our citizenry who will be responsible for our country in years to come? Students who are at risk of dropping out of school, of not taking their education seriously, or simply need some sort of encouragement might well be inspired by the words of a president, whether those words come from Reagan, Bush, or Obama.

Indeed, a terribly sad, defeatist philosophy was expressed by Mr. Melton in his opinion column on Monday: “the children who do not stay in school and earn the free education offered by local districts do so because that is their choice. Most of the drop outs have been raised through the welfare system and feel that the government is going to provide for them anyway, regardless of education.” Wow.

Thankfully, here in Lamar County and across the whole span of our nation, parents, teachers, community leaders – and even the President of the United States – refuse to give in to such a defeatist attitude. Hopeful, caring, committed people believe that ALL children are capable of learning, that ALL children are capable of rising above their circumstances, that ALL children – regardless of their socio-economic status, their race, or their religion – need to be encouraged by adults who have their very best interests at heart.

This isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

That’s a quote from Barack Obama’s speech of September 8, 2009. And I think that’s a message that even Fox News ought to be able to get behind.

Frances Reed