Spirit of our school is ailing, not its body | Raymond S. Baker

Leader letters to the editor
Spending such sums of money builds an illusion. The problems of the district cannot be remedied with the application of financial resources. A school is not bricks and mortar. Not desks and cabinets, nor gyms or auditoriums. If the “school” disappeared tomorrow the children would survive, thrive and learn. 
Education is not tangible property. It is not something to be purchased. It exists irrespective. That the application of thought and reason is confined to walls is arrogance. The building is not nurturing the citizens of tomorrow. The gilded edifice is a distraction. Each and every educator within can impart the accumulated knowledge of humankind without.
What teachers have to give our children cannot be bought. Reason is free, universal and profound. To tie such a timeless principle as education to real estate and chattels is to malign its core tenet. We are not masters of education, but servants. Money will not increase enrollment or the schools performance. Only a shift in fundamental values can. The answer is in our hearts, not our wallets. 
If a school crumbles to the ground, the spirit of education will not be scattered to the winds. It is a spark, a fire within each of us. It was in a cave millennia ago. It lived in a hut on the Serengeti. It flourished in the monasteries of India, China and Japan. It dwelt in the teepees and wigwams of North America before any European set foot on these shores.
Our test scores, declining enrollment and appalling state rankings are proof of this. The citizens asked to fund a golden calf are a generation or two removed from being educated in country schoolhouses. The essence of education is the relationship between teacher and student. Nurture, praise and revere the teacher. Foster the community of educators, build a family of staff. Their most important work is not quantified. The values they impart are immeasurable. They change lives.
There is a temptation to hang these failures on our school and its governors. Our failure has grown as we’ve shirked our duties as families, friends and community. We choose to use economic success to hire out the education of youth to pursue our own goals. It is easier to make money than educate our own. We throw money at education to cover up our waning desire to serve our children. 
The school system is not to blame, though it is a willing accomplice. Until we choose to stem the tide of attaching education to the edifices of schools, we will fail. To return to the fundamental concept of education is the only path out of our morass. I cannot conceive of how a school with eyes only on walls can nurture the contents within. The spirit of our school is ailing, not its body. Only an unadulterated application of collective altruism can heal these wounds.
Raymond S. Baker

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