"You shall be known as Usul, which is the strength at the base of the pillar," Stilgar, Dune by Frank Herbert."
Dr. J. wanted to get this in before the iPhone 5 announcement, so as not to embarrass Tim Cook with all the traffic that Dr. J. would draw away from Apple.
Dr. J. and Mrs. Dr. J. were in attendance at a fundraiser on Sunday night for the New Atlantis Jedi Academy (NAJA), where the lil resident and lil medstudent are learning the ways of the force. Some New Atlantean Bards performed, there was bountiful food, freely flowing spirits (well, a cash bar), and strong fellowship. We love NAJA because the Jedi Masters know and love our kids and work very hard to educate them. They do an outstanding job. The lil med student levitated the cat this week, and the lil resident force choked a neighbor whose dog took a dump on our lawn the week before. We are blessed that the Jedi Masters are equally supported by the other parents in the school community as they are by us. It is Dr. J.'s belief that a strong community of likeminded parents who support the school's mission make a school great. In essence they are, like Usul, the strength at the base of the pillar of the school.
Now, one does not have to send their child to the New Atlantis Jedi Academy to get a great education (though it's a good start). You can be involved no matter where you send them. But Dr. J., you are asking, what can I do? I don't know where to begin.
As Dr. J. said, you are can be a pillar, and it's as simple as that:
P - Prayer - As long as there are math tests, there will be prayer in school...your child's spiritual development is a linchpin to the development of good character. Corny, but true. If your child goes to public school there are probably rules fire-walling their secular education from their spiritual one. Give thanks before dinner, go to the religious service of your choice, take them to Sunday School, Hebrew School, walk through a forest (if you are a druid) or whatever. Whatever your religious persuasion is, expose your child to it, as they will benefit. If you're an atheist, take them Starbucks and read the NYT or something, that will probably count.
I - Invest - If you send your child to private school, you can be certain that charitable giving above and beyond tuition is expected. Participating in the fundraisers is a way to stay involved and get to know the other parents and your kids teachers. A couple of the nicer public K-4 elementary schools in New Atlantis have very aggressive fundraising strategies to insure that those children have resources available to enjoy a well rounded education (PE, the Arts, etc...). On public school in particular told the parents, "Many of you were dropping $1,000 a month on daycare before sending your child here, and you are saving $12K+ compared to the private schools in town, we hope you can make a generous gift to your child's education." Heavy handed, Dr. J. knows, but it resonated with is friends who send their kids there. Fortunately, the New Atlantis Board of Education hasn't 'redistributed' some of the budgets from these schools to poorer schools as Governor Florio did in New Jersey a couple of decades ago, when parents invested in their schools via a local tax increase in one small New Jersey town. Invest does not mean just in dollars. We all have gifts. Not everyone can cut a check. If you don't have treasure, you can contribute in time or talent, if you have those to give.
L - Lunch - Eat lunch with your kids at their school. Most schools, public and private allow this. Some even have days where parents are expected to come to lunch to allow the teachers to have staff meetings. When they're young, you're still a rock star, so you can go, meet their friends and teachers. When they're older and think you're not so cool, you can bring take out from their favorite restaurant, they might still roll their eyes, but they will eat with you and the truth is, their friends will think you are cool.
L - Learn - Learn about what your kids are learning in school. Learn who the teachers are, and what the curriculum goals are. Dr. J. is aggressively boning up on New Atlantean history, a subject he knows nothing about. He has read up on the pros and cons of Everyday Math, which is one of many sources that the school is using for math education. When the lil resident and lil medstudent learn a foreign language (besides ancient Atlantean in which Dr. J. is fluent), he will learn it along side them, so that he can help them as need be.
A - Attend - Your kid's school will have back-to-school nights, fundraisers, sporting events, plays. Go! If your kids are in first grade and playing rec soccer, take them to the 6th grade soccer game and watch the big kids play. Even if they aren't 4th grade, go to the 4th grade play every year. The more parents that attend events, and the more that school events are on parent's social calendars, the stronger the school community becomes, and that far better for your child's education.
R - Read - Read to your kids. As you know, Dr. J. reads to his kids. The lil med student has taken a break from classical mythology and very interested in military history and weapons platforms. Seriously. Dr. J. loves the school library! After Dr. J. put the lil medstudent to bed, he came downstairs to see the lil Resident and Mrs. Dr. J. curled up reading. The lil resident is working on Harry Potter and Mrs. Dr. J. was embracing some iBook on her iPad. So don't just read to your kid, read near your kid. Dr. J. is currently reading REAMDE, by Neil Stephenson.
So there you have it. Be a pillar of your school community, and it will rub off on the other parents.
If everyone followed Dr. J.'s advice, the education system in our country would be stronger much stronger than it is and Mrs. The Czar and Mrs. 'Puter would probably require fewer Manhattans, with fewer Maraschino cherries when they come home from work.