Opinion | Scott M. Estill: Back to normal for Summit students | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Scott M. Estill: Back to normal for Summit students

It is that time of year again for the Summit County schools to welcome 3,454 students back into its nine public schools for another start to an academic year. After the previous two years, it is a most welcome sight to see the students return to a “normal” school environment. But what exactly does “normal” mean?

Our public schools, of course, are built to educate the youth and prepare them for a productive future. But how this is accomplished is subject to many different opinions, often due to a disagreement over the function of public schools in general. Good luck Superintendent Byrd! I hope you don’t get bombarded with requests to ban “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “1984” or a host of other books (including a Texas county recently banning and then reconsidering The Bible and “The Diary of Anne Frank” due to “inappropriate content”).

Any student of any age (yes, even at the beginning of their academic career) can plug into Spotify and listen to hours of music containing the same words that Mockingbird’s Black victim Tom Robinson endured and are now somehow deserving of banning? Summit High School students: if you are looking for some excellent books, do not, under any circumstances, read any of the books on this banned book list (it’s from the hyper-liberal folks at Reader’s Digest, and can be found at RD.com/list/banned-books).

Yet, Superintendent Byrd will have to negotiate the delicate balance between how much involvement parents have in the education of their children, along with the education of other children who will be affected by any classroom-wide school policies. If Anne Frank is removed from the library, none of the students will be able to check it out, and this doesn’t even get into discussions with respect to race, justice (or lack thereof) and other historical age-appropriate topics that are as relevant today as they were during previous lifetimes. However, as a parent, it is insulting to suggest that we have no control over the education of our children. My entire role as a father circles back to education in one form or another.   

Now that the students are attending school again in person, the social values cannot be understated. Rather than school being about books and lectures, it is equally important to recognize the values of social bonds formed during K-12. The values of teamwork, conflict resolution and how to handle adversity are all sorely needed in our society, values that could not be replicated via Zoom learning.

We as a community also need to focus on the teachers themselves. After two strange years of teaching to a remote audience, it is back to normal now. But it’s no secret that teachers nationwide are burnt out and discouraged by the negative rhetoric concerning their jobs and job performance. Are our teachers really grooming our students for a life full of sexual abuse as some on the far right and Fox News seem to suggest? Are librarians really sexual predators if they put objectionable books on gender on the shelves? One of the most difficult jobs today is being a teacher. To add fringe noise based upon some moral panic is not a good thing to add to an already difficult job description. 

And then there are the students. About 9% of Summit County lives below the poverty line, which would involve at least 300 students. For these students, going to school may represent much more than learning to read or write. It may mean the difference between eating or hunger. And more students will soon need this assistance as the cost of shopping at Safeway is increasing at a much faster rate than wages, regardless of the current Biden administration posture that the worst inflation is in the rear-view mirror.

Schools also provide a safety net for the health care of some of our community members, as when money gets tight and the choice becomes food or medicine, the medicine will lose every time. In our society today, which seems to value childbirth over child rearing, we shouldn’t kid ourselves that schools provide vital child care services for working parents, not only before and after school but during school.

I look at our schools as the most vital component of many in our society. Without the education system functioning at the highest level possible, our community as a whole cannot consider itself successful. Failure is not an option, unless we want a future straight out of the movie “Idiocracy”.

The purpose of schooling today involves a package of emotional, physical and social wellbeing.

The entire community has a stake in the success of the students upon graduation from Summit High School. Most importantly, best of luck to the students as you begin to navigate yet another year of life, no matter where in the K-12 hierarchy you may reside. The way the adult component of the population is managing things today, you will need it.

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