Monday, June 19, 2006

Let HB be HB

What do we want more than to see our children safe and in the best educational facility possible? When David and I decided we were going to try to reproduce (it was a little more romantic than it sounds) we decided that we wanted our children to go to public school. We felt that couldn’t happen in DC and so we looked to be somewhere no more then five miles from the White House. That wasn’t going to happen in Maryland and so we looked in Virginia. We ended up, happily, in Arlington.

Jordan’s elementary school years began on a sour note. We enrolled her in a cooperative program. Parents were supposed to be involved and so we volunteered to help with the summer cleaning before the fall semester. There were a good many incredibly snotty women who had also volunteered but didn’t want to do anything. After David and I had been cleaning for 5 hours and were ready to leave, one of the women who was not doing diddly squat suggested that the bathrooms still needed help. I told her that, in that case, I would have to go home and get my housekeeper. That certainly shut her up. But I felt that the start was pebbles if not rocky. We sucked it up until the third week of school when it was my turn to be the parent in residence. Jordan was all of three years old, and she spent most of the morning comforting other children who were experiencing separation anxiety. We felt that since the school was not free and they were not paying Jordan as school counselor we would go elsewhere.

Most of her school years were fine. Her 4th grade was a little bit of a disaster because there were simply too many kids for too few teachers. But in 5th grade we moved to NJ and enrolled her in a school where she was one of 11 5th and 6th graders, so she made up the year. Then we decided to move back to Virginia and put her on a list for the popular alternative public 6-12 school called HB Woodlawn. It was a remarkable place to educate a child. Many other communities around the country have tried to duplicate it without success because the key to making it work is to trust the kids. It’s hard to trust children. Yes, we are good at protecting them, but trusting them is much harder. Anyway, HB taught Jordan about how to make thoughtful and productive decisions. Not that she didn’t screw up, but when she did she understood what she had done and recognized there were consequences. There are always consequences, but we felt assured that she had learned to have good judgment about the important issues like sex, drugs, alcohol, strangers, and the internet, blah blah blah.

Ray Anderson started HB thirty years ago. It was an idea he had while he was driving a Volkswagen camper across the country. Need I tell you he was part of the sixties generation that found a way to make all our dreams come true? Ray retired two years ago and Frank, the principal of the middle school, took his place. You may have seen this story, but the seniors at HB decide what their senior gift will be. This year they decided to give themselves flasks. Does that mean they were all going to fill their flasks and get drunk. Probably not. Was a flask the wisest of decisions? Maybe not, but the kids made the decision and they are kids and regardless of what they have learned, they still want to make a statement about being grown up. And then the inevitable happened. Some idiotic 8th grade parent ran to the superintendent to tell on the principal. This is a CARDINAL sin at HB. At HB you deal one on one with whomever you think is wrong — it can be a teacher, a TA or the principal. It is a matter of trusting those wonderful people who educate your child to be able to explain why the decision was made. Frank could easily have explained the why... and any other senior grade parent would have done the same.

There are always people who will not understand how a child can be equal to an adult in any decision making process. There will always be people looking to eliminate HB because they do not understand the concept of trusting your kids. They think the resources are better spent on some stupid traditional “thing.” There are those parents who should not be HB parents and their children do not belong in the school. Those people, not Frank, should be fired. Didn’t you just hate the tattle tale when you were growing up? Well here they come again.

According to Newsweek, HB is somewhere between the 8th and 13th best high school in the country. Do you know how many high schools there are in the US? When Jordan went to college she did not have a problem adjusting to the freedom, the independence or the idea of making her own reasoned decisions; she had been doing it for at least four, if not six years. What more can we want for our children? Let HB be HB. We’re just sayin...


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