There’s NO Such Thing as a Dragon- Thoughts on Public Education

When I was in the first grade I was beginning to learn how to read. I was put in the lowest reading group in my class because I still could not decode the letters into words. For some reason I found it difficult to do. I was jealous of the higher reading groups because they made it seem so easy.

I come from a family where it isn’t too common to have a higher education. In fact, my own mother never graduated high school. She dropped out of the eighth grade to help her single mom pay the bills. Four years later she met my dad and started a family. My dad was able to finish high school, but did not pursue any education beyond that. His mother, my dear and faithful Grandmother, never went to school. In fact she never learned to read. So growing up, I didn’t have bed time stories or some one reading to me in my pre-school years. So it makes sense I was put in the lowest reading group in my first grade class.

What I find most interesting about this story, is that not only did my Grandma not know how to read, she only knew about a handful of English words. Her native tongue is Spanish. So there was a bit of a language barrier, but somehow we always managed to communicate- we understood each other just fine. I believe that is how true love works. Love only knows one language.

So being the little naive girl I was, and of course since I was determined to get out of the lowest reading group, I made a deal with my Grandma. If she would teach my how to speak Spanish I would teach her how to read. Little did I know that teaching a woman how to read in English when she only spoke Spanish would be quite challenging- not to mention that I still didn’t couldn’t read either. It sounded like a good idea at the time.

As you probably guessed, I didn’t learn Spanish and my Grandmother didn’t learn to read. We did, however, had a great time trying. We spent a lot of time in her front porch, after she was done making her homemade tortillas, and I would sit on her lap and practice, I mean, teach her how to read. The book of choice was called, “There’s NO Such Thing as a Dragon,” by Jack Kent. It’s a cute little story of a little boy who finds a dragon in his room. The dragon is small at first, and then when the little boy tells his mom about the dragon, she doesn’t believe him, she tells him, “There’s no such thing as a dragon.” The mother’s unbelief causes the dragon to grow, because if there is no such thing as a dragon, then there was no need to tell the dragon to stop growing. Eventually the dragon gets so big it filled the entire house and relocates it to another part of the city. The only way the dragon was able to shrink back to its original size was when they admitted his existence.

It was the first book I could read all by myself. By the end of the year, I was placed in a higher reading group. I now hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and teach English to a bunch of stinky 7th and 8th graders.

I had to work harder then some of my peers because I didn’t have the support from home. If you read any of my other posts, you know what I mean. I do remember my dad helping with a few  school projects, but that was about as much support as my sister and I got. (My student loan balance would agree with me!)

There is a lot of anger and confusion these days with what is going on with public education. All I know is that if it wasn’t for public education I wouldn’t be where I am today. Public education gave me the tools I needed to be a productive member of society and it taught me a lot more than just math, science and reading. Public schools are more than just a place to conduct experiments and recite poetry, for some children it is a place of wonder, a place of belonging, and a place to learn about what it means to be successful and what it means to fail. School gives us friends, and teaches us how to stand up for ourselves. School is only the doorway not the destination.

I am weary when I hear the people around me talk about their apathy as if it’s something to be proud of- they say that they don’t have time to vote for our local school board- They say teachers don’t matter because it’s the parents who make their kids successful- they say it doesn’t matter who our Secretary of Education is because in the end it’s the support they get from home that makes our country great!

I suppose there is some truth to those statements- but like most statements with a lot of fluff and glitter, it isn’t the WHOLE truth.

Just like the dragon in the children’s story, we deny the existence of our apathy and so it grows and grows and grows until one day it’s so big it fills the White House, our local government, our communities, our schools and then our homes.

What more needs to happen before we realize that it is our apathetic attitudes that have caused this mess- does public education need to disappear completely? God I hope not! I can’t imagine a country, a world that only the privileged and well off families are allowed a decent education. Honestly I don’t think we realize just how horrifying that thought really is.

I am thankful for the people in my life who didn’t have this attitude that their kid was the only kid that mattered. I am thankful that the few who saw something great in me pushed me, and encouraged me. I am thankful that I learned to be respectful, and courteous from my teachers and peers instead of looking down on me as some sort of burden to society.

We are all in this together my friends. The children who don’t have the support from home NEED us- as much as we will NEED them one day.

The argument goes: picking up the slack where others lack is unfair, but if that’s the whole truth then read my post on Pro-life. We have NO RIGHT to ban abortion and then not give a decent education to those children.  To force a woman to raise a child without us graciously picking up the slack is to deny human rights to that child. How dare we sit back and do nothing or think our problems are going to go away without us doing our part to help a child get the education they deserve and have a right to.  Otherwise it’s hypocritical to be pro-life and then be apathetic, judgmental and indifferent to the needs of that mother and child.

It does matter! Our votes matter! Our Secretary of Education Matters, in both the federal and local offices. Who put into the Governors’ Mansion matters!! Teachers matter!!!!! ALL CHILDREN MATTER!!!!

Until we admit the truth- the dragon will grow and grow and grow….




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