They Are All Your Children, Prince Edward County

Published 3:41 pm Tuesday, April 3, 2012

There is no other continuous long-term goal for the people and future of Prince Edward County as important as coming together as a caring and committed community to create a public school system in which every child has the opportunity to maximize their potential and to realistically pursue their dreams in life.

When a community succeeds in doing so, it empowers its children, yes, but it also launches the entire community into the best possible future.

And it will indeed depend upon a community effort to reach and take up permanent residency in that Promised Land.

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Yes, a drought-proof water supply is utterly critical but that does not require the people of Prince Edward County to annually become the rainfall that fills streams, rivers and a reservoir. The school system, on the other hand, most certainly needs the people in this community to have the effect of sustaining rainfall on the young minds growing in its fields.

Every facet of life in Prince Edward County will be affected by success or failure of this critical mission that will decide the destiny of individuals but also the long road of Prince Edward County's tomorrows.

Support the schools, as School Board Chairman Russell Dove told me recently, and you are supporting the community.

Yes, this is about developing a workforce, but it goes beyond that. Far beyond. This is about our life force. This is life force development. This is about our heart force. Our soul force. This is heart and soul force development.

As Prince Edward County High School Principal Craig Reed emphatically puts it in his column on this page, get on the bus to transformation.

Look out your window-there is nothing you can see that will not be affected some day by someone who attended, and hopefully graduated, from Prince Edward County High School.

For better or for worse.

Look in the mirror-there is nothing you can see there, either, that will not be affected some day.

For better or for worse.

Look around your dining room table, around your living room at your family-there is nobody you can see that does not depend on the county's public schools graduating a truly educated body of alumni.

Looking out that same window, gazing into that same mirror, looking with love at your own family-there you see who and what is needed to elevate the Prince Edward County Public School system to a level of sustained excellence that is able to meet the needs of every child.

If, when you look in the mirror, you see the parent of a child attending the public schools, you have discovered an absolutely crucial ingredient in that child's education. Parental involvement has an impact it is impossible to overstate. When your child sees that you take education seriously, especially their education, it can have the same impact that a good offensive lineman has, opening up runs to daylight on the football field-in this case daylight on your child's run to education, enlightenment, and wisdom.

Children take their cues from their parents as they grow up. If you are not involved in your child's life, and their education, your active noninvolvement will have significant impacts nonetheless. And they will do nobody any good, starting with your child and rippling out toward and around, encircling, everyone with whom their lives cross.

The voice of some people are now heard, saying aloud, or to themselves, 'Well, that leaves me out. I don't have any children in the Prince Edward County Public Schools. What's it to me?'

Oh, yes you do.

You most certainly do have children in the Prince Edward County Public Schools.

You have 690 children attending Prince Edward County High School.

And you have 979 children attending Prince Edward County Elementary School, to go along with 750 Prince Edward County Middle School children.

And these 2,419 children should mean everything to you.

Simply looking at it selfishly, without regard for the lives of those children, every one of those children will somehow shape the rest of your life in Prince Edward County. They will be in the stores, on the streets and sidewalks. They can be the workforce that attracts the economic development that provides for their own lives, but yours, too, by creating a community able to afford the goods and services for our collective quality of life. They can be the nurses and doctors who care for you, the law enforcement officers who protect you. Builders, accountants, surveyors, the entire Yellow Pages. Teachers, preachers and carpenters.

Or, through the indifference and active noninvolvement of their parents and their community, they can be something else entirely.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol knew what it was talking about. Ebeneezer Scrooge is startled and frightened by two children he sees peering out from the spirit's dark cloak. “Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked,” Mr. Dickens writes.

Scrooge is appalled. “'Spirit! Are they yours?'”

“They are Man's,” said the Spirit. “…And they cling to me…This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”

The Prince Edward County Public School system has been working tirelessly to erase the writing Mr. Dickens referred to and to teach the community's children to write a better future, the best possible future, for themselves and, therefore, the community-particularly given the fact that the public school system had to start again from scratch in 1964 after being closed for five years during Massive Resistance. But those teachers and students can achieve more with the full community energetically behind and beside them. The community owes its children, owes itself, a massive commitment of joined collaboration and celebration of public education that raises every life and lifetime.

This crusade is more than an investment of funds.

An investment of flesh and blood is crucial.

A sharing of heart and soul.

The fate of our life together as a community is in our own hands. Only we determine whether that power is a blessing or a curse.

When we work together, undoubtedly Angels sit enthroned.

The classrooms in the Prince Edward County Public Schools are filled with angels. Let us see how high and how far we can help them fly, lifting all of us together as a community in the process.