My heart is sick over scenes from last Tuesday, as the teachers and administrators accused of perpetrating a massive cheating scheme in Atlanta Public Schools walked though a media circus on their way to the Fulton County Jail.
There are tragedies up one side and down the other in this terrible episode which shows no sign of being over any time soon. The children are the biggest losers in this mess, and certainly for their sake, justice must be done. For the sake of those charged with criminal wrongdoing, justice must be done; indeed, for the sake of our society, governed by law, justice must be done. Has not the time come to leave what happens next in the hands of the courts, and get on with the business of educating Atlanta's children?
Why don't we concentrate now on taking positive steps in support of our public schools? Why don't we give thanks to God for dedicated public school teachers and principals, for crossing guards and lunch room ladies, soccer coaches and office administrators, reading specialists and all those who get up every day determined to make sure the kids of our city have a great day at school and a great life as a consequence of what they have learned in school? Why don't we volunteer to be a tutor or a mentor? Why don't we offer moral and political support to the current leadership of Atlanta Public Schools?
Perhaps I am biased about these matters, but I have reason to be. I attended public school and received a wonderful education. After graduating from college, I began teaching English in an Atlanta high school. The kids I taught were only a few years younger than I. Together, we had the grandest adventures imaginable, traveling from ancient Rome via Julius Caesar to London via Great Expectations. Together, we grew in such deep ways that their lives and mine were changed forever. I have never had a more demanding job or a more meaningful one. A couple of years ago, I attended the 40th reunion of one of the classes I taught. Collectively and individually, they had turned out really swell.
I believe that public schools are the most important institutions in America. If they are broken, let's fix them, but let us never allow cynicism or negativity to carry the day.
The shadows of scandal will linger, but Atlanta's children don't have a single day to waste. Their tomorrows are pressing in. For their sake, let's move toward the light as soon as we can.