A team assembled by our Governor has brought forward the most thoughtful and comprehensive proposals to overhaul public education our state has seen in a long time, perhaps ever.
Nevertheless, there is little evidence that the hard work has included more than cursory attention to the extracurricular programs that create a point of connection for students and a sense of community from small towns to urban neighborhoods across our state – programs that provide motivation for students to stay in school, like school and do better in school, and for parents, boosters, friends and neighbors to invest in that school.
Some may argue that the neighborhood school is as anachronistic as the nine-month school year. While I’ve long and often criticized the school year as too short, I continue to advocate for neighborhood schools.
I’ve seen too much harm to students educationally and to communities economically as a result of sending students hither and yon for their schooling. And the so-called innovations have been resegregating public education every step down this ill-advised path.
The mantra “any time, any place, any way, any pace” may be a catchy phrase to describe where reformers wish to take public education in Michigan. It may also be the wrong direction for students, communities and ultimately our state, taking us back to a time when students dropped in and out of schools without much accountability.
As for our little piece of this – emotion-charged extracurricular programs – we’ll do our best to maintain a little order, some respect for rules and responsibilities, and a sense of fairness and equity.
There are many days in many places where 40 or 50 or 60 percent or more of a high school’s student body is participating in extracurricular athletics and activities. They are not unimportant to the education of those students and to the quality of life in those communities. Even if they haven’t been consulted during recent planning, extracurricular programs will be heard from during the coming debate.