Is Rip Van Winkle Awakening

Published 1:24 pm Wednesday, May 19, 2021

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I will admit that I never read Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle, an 1819 story of a hen-pecked husband who, to get away, wanders into the Catskill Mountains of southeastern New York State. He encounters a group of Dutch partiers and joins the merriment.

Rip Van Winkle drinks so much of their liquor that he passes into a 20 year sleep. When he wakes up, the American Revolution has been fought and the colonies have transitioned from King George III’s cash cow into an independent nation living a new way. The changes are enormous and it’s a challenge for the man.

I mention the 20 year slumber and ask how many decades has the United States of America been sleeping? Then, the question is, “Are we capable of awakening?” I think so and there are hopeful signs that we are beginning to stir. For proof, I point to the confrontations, maybe sporadic now, but growing, in the challenges that parents are presenting to many Boards of Education around the country.

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The pandemic of 2020 was very costly in many, many ways, but the highest price might have been paid by our public educational system. That institution, once the envy of the world and the foundation for the prosperity of our nation, was taken for granted to have the best interests of our children as their mission.

Personally, I’ve never attended a school board meeting. Nor have I ever had any interest in putting my name up for an election to a Board of Education position. Like Rip Van Winkle, I was asleep and depended on others to guide the education of our children.

I took for granted that good administrators and teachers would be hired and that the subjects that would be taught, the curriculum chosen, would be the standard fare that I had long ago when I was in school. Our nation was founded on inspired documents like our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.

Certain dates, like 1776, were etched in stone and I took for granted that date would be celebrated without question. The equality espoused in our Declaration took a lot pain and suffering to reach maturity and we still have miles to go, but I took for granted that we were on a straight forward path. We live in a great nation and I, along with most parents, took for granted that our schools would, painstakingly, teach that.
Ronald Reagan once said that “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream.” I think our 40th President meant that we must be diligent in guarding the education of our children. If only one generation misses the lessons of our nation’s foundational values, we are in trouble.

If there was a silver lining to 2020 and the “virtual” education of our children, it was that parents who were conscientiously monitoring their children’s online classes saw some aspects of their education that were questionable.

Dates, like 1776, were no longer being used as the historical beginning of the United States of America. It was now 1619. Explain that, parents wanted to know, and when it was explained, they disagreed. Yet an entire curriculum was being written for our children using 1619 as the most important date in our history.

That new curriculum was subtly changing the concept of equality of opportunity to an equality of outcome. In other words, instead of inspiring our children to be the best they can be, there seemed to be a push for everyone to end up in the same place.

Parents are waking up in many places and ways. I just hope the nap hasn’t been too long!