MOST MORNINGS my wake-up routine consists of turning on the coffee, feeding the dogs, and then, cuppa joe in hand, heading into my office to check on my investments.
A glance at my desk—is the jar of pennies still intact? Check.
A glance online at the daily newspaper—any news about our local educational institutions? Check.
As a childless resident of Savannah, the decisions being made regarding the future of our schools and colleges, especially the K-12 public school system, are of acute importance to me.
That’s because the 32,000 students in Savannah’s public schools will be running the show around here for the next three to five decades—the rest of my projected life span.
Most of my friends have kids and, in some cases, grandkids, whom they are teaching, supporting, and grooming (physically, intellectually and spiritually). That grooming is motivated by love, and by their expectations that these children will grow up to become positive forces in their families, neighborhoods, workplaces, and in the world.
Although it’s probably not something parents talk about at their kids’ playdates, an assumed byproduct of their loving and well-intentioned child rearing is the hope that, once the children become adults and their parents move on in years, the kids will return the favor.
Hopefully, moms and dads who take a few hours off this year to attend parent teacher conferences will one day be accompanied by their grown children taking a few hours off to go with them to a Social Security conference—assuming that program exists in 2039.
Hopefully, moms and dads who drop their children off for music lessons or theater rehearsal this year will one day be accompanied by their grown children to a concert or the performance of a local theater production as a welcome chance to get out of the house.
Hopefully, moms and dads who take their children for annual pediatrician check ups this year will one day be accompanied by their grown children taking a few hours from work to drive them to the gerontologist.
For the rest of us, we rely on the instruction of the local schools, enhanced in many cases by good parents, to train others to assist us in our twilight years as we take on those tasks alone.
Despite working hard at cultivating my Auntie Mame role with a few neighborhood children, it’s unlikely that my 2009 candy bribes for four-year-old Ty will create enough of a bond between us to convince him to drive me to the grocery store in 2039.
So, I and the other childless folks of our community are relying on the local schools, particularly the Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools and the three public colleges and universities, to train the next generation of Social Security administrators, theater ticket takers, doctor’s office receptionists, taxi drivers and grocery store managers.
I’m looking to our public institutions to teach today’s students how to make change for my movie ticket even if the cash register is on the blink. I’m looking to them to teach today’s students how to be ethical enough to give me the right change even if, in 2039, I no longer can calculate it myself.
I’m looking to our public institutions to teach today’s students how to type lucid notes into my medical chart, in whole sentences that communicate vital information on symptoms and medications. I’m looking to them to teach today’s students that making friendly chit-chat with a lonely little old lady in 2039 is just as important as getting the paperwork right.
Why not look to the private schools for this support? Because, from my unscientific observations, it appears that the people who work in the day-to-day tasks I’ve encountered the most during my careers — and particularly when taking care of daily business — are usually the products of our public educational institutions.
It would surprise me if that trend changes much in the coming decades, especially in this recession. Teacher friends tell me that many private school parents are moving their children into public schools this fall to eliminate costly tuition payments.
Sometimes it seems like there’s not much a non-parent can do to support public schools and colleges in Savannah. Sometimes it seems like the desktop penny jar and the stash of candy bribes are my best options for long term planning. But there are some things non-parents can do. More on that next time. cs