AS I REFLECT on Tuesday, the day poor school districts went before the state Supreme Court to continue a two-decade-old quest to force South Carolina to give all students a chance to obtain a quality education, Im thankful for the educational opportunities my wife and I along with their schools are able to extend to our sons.
At the same time, Im keenly and sadly aware that many children arent getting the basics, let alone the level of parental guidance, teaching, exposure and emphasis on education that Alexander and Christopher get.
While the future of potentially generations of students hung in limbo before the Supreme Court Tuesday, heres how Alexanders and Christophers day fairly typical went:
Before leaving for school, we prayed and asked God to protect and help the boys meet the goals we have for them at school from learning to be attentive and make good decisions to gaining clarity and understanding as they studied.
We then dropped them off at the schools we know will teach them well. Alexander, 7, is a second grader at Ballentine Elementary in Lexington-Richland 5, an excellent school in an equally excellent district.
Christopher, 4, attends Bethel Child Development Center (run by our church, Bethel AME), where his 4K teacher stresses everything from the alphabet, reading and counting to writing and learning sight words.
On the way to school, Alexander and I talked about the need to focus on the lessons and to show his teacher what he knows. When I left him, I asked as I always do what kind of things God wanted him to do in class. Great things, he said.
So be great today, I said.
As Christopher and I drove to Bethel, he sang his alphabet, recited scriptures that correlated with a particular letter in the alphabet and named multiple animals beginning with each letter.
When I picked him up later, he asked, Dad, want me to tell you what we did in school today?
Before I could ask, he blurted out: 10, 20, 30, 40 .
Want me to count to 100 by ones? And he did, with minimal help.
That evening, Alexanders homework was a reading assignment. Christophers included writing his name, filling in missing vowels and counting.
At bedtime, Alexander already having done his reading homework read three chapters of the book Mercy Watson: Princess in Disguise, which we had started the night before. Then I read the remainder of the book aloud. I also had to read Dangerous Dinos to the boys (dinosaur stories are among their favorites) as well as Hansel and Gretel.
I dont know exactly what Alexanders and Christophers futures hold, but I do know that their mom and I intend to give them every opportunity to achieve the great things we talk to them about. While we expose them to lots of experiences from the zoo to the library to out-of-town trips we put extra emphasis on reading, something I encourage every parent to do.
Without strong parental support and guidance, students struggle. Its primarily the parents duty to help their children learn and apply themselves at school. If parents make education a priority, so will students.
Yes, some parents simply fall down on the job. But others work multiple jobs just to keep the family fed, and have little time to help. Many more arent equipped to help their children read, let alone do homework. Lots of parents attended and were failed by the same schools that are now failing their children. Thats particularly true in rural areas, where the tax base is small and its hard to attract the better teachers and obtain the best technology and materials.
Thats why the school funding suit is so important. Id like to see the court do something bold. But it shouldnt take that. Its the Legislatures job to improve our schools and give our children a fighting chance to become productive citizens.
Failing to do so as parents and as a state wont just leave those kids behind. It will keep South Carolina trailing in those things wed rather be leading in and leading in those things wed rather be trailing in. Arent we tired of that?
Reach Mr. Bolton, author of God Is Grace: Lessons to a Father from a Son, at (803) 771-8631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.