Why blog, Rolland B? You want to write about K-12 public education? You don’t even have an “Ed.D.” after your name, let alone a “Ph.D.” Are you out of your mind? Okay … OK … good question. But I have a doctorate from the University of Hard Knocks! I admit I am not a social scientist, a pundit, or a philosopher. I am not even a good writer … I’d rather speak than write. What I am is an avid student of U.S. history and contemporary politics – I had memorized Lincoln’s Gettysburg address when I was in high school in my former country – and I value and am truly grateful for the blessings of American democracy, having come from a country ruled by a conjugal dictatorship for two decades.

If I had not left the country of my birth at the time that I did, it’s quite possible I could have fled to the hills and become a rebel, taking up arms against a burgeoning dictatorship. Thankfully, one mid-November day years ago, Lady Liberty welcomed me into these shores with open arms, even gave me a green card right then and there.

But … back to your question, my friend. “Why blog, Rolland B?” was the question. I guess the philosophical answer is, I want to exercise my free speech rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The more practical answer is: I have something to say … I have something to contribute, and I will say it via my blog posts to share it with people who read my blog – no matter how modest my contribution might be.

The real reasons are more nuanced than that. Shortly after walking away from my CPA practice – where my small audit staff and I specialized in conducting the mandated financial and compliance audits of about twenty school districts located in three counties in Northern California – I felt that I had wasted a good part of my life. I judged myself as a failure – a colossal failure – in many ways … as a professional and as a family man.

Years before, instead of running for reelection or aiming for higher office, I chose to retire from public office and did not run for reelection. A year earlier, I quit evening law school … for the second time! Many years before, during the first year of my CPA practice, I entered law school at Western State University in Fullerton, Orange County, CA – and then quit after ten months of law schooling.

You see, when I quit law school for the second time, I was completely at peace. I concluded that all of Southern California would NOT slide into the depths of the Pacific Ocean if the name “Rolland B” did not appear ever on the roster of the California Bar.

Nine years after retiring from my CPA practice, it dawned on me that I’m still trying to find myself! Can you believe that? It is as if I have yet to set my appointment with destiny. A man – in the twilight of his life – is looking for something to do, a job with some meaning, a mission to fulfill … something with even just a hint of nobility of purpose.

Although my eleven years in public K-12 central office administration were satisfying, personally and professionally — I was an assistant superintendent, business services with a K-8 school district and chief operations officer with a large unified school district — it was my service as an elected school board member in a large suburban unified school district somewhere in Southern California that deepened and broadened for me my understanding of the challenges … and the opportunities … in the K-12 environment.

Now, the idea of blogging about K-12 public education and its role in American democracy … gets me feeling revved up and driven again. It gets the adrenalin flowing. The job of rookie blogger, writing about (a) K-12 public education, as its self-appointed cheerleader and (b) the all-encompassing topic of American democracy, as its self-proclaimed super-fan, could prove to be my belated and final calling.

As mentioned in the Home page, I plan to raise questions to stimulate discussions about America’s K-12 public education system and the important role it plays in preserving, protecting and defending the longest running experiment in democracy the world has ever known.

On this maiden blog post, I salute the unsung heroes and heroines of the K-12 public education enterprise. I’m referring to the millions of underpaid teachers and their non-teaching colleagues – including the office clerks, cafeteria workers, custodians, ground keepers, maintenance workers, school bus drivers and others – who help facilitate the delivery of critical instructional programs in public K-12 school districts across the U.S.A.

I must also salute the thousands of K-12 school district superintendents and their fellow central office administrators, including site administrators, for their leadership, for being in the frontlines of educating young people. I consider K-12 school district superintendents a special breed of professionals, leaders for whom I have utmost admiration and respect.

I also salute the thousands upon thousands of school leaders and volunteers with PTAs, PTOs and other booster groups busting their tails, in fundraising and other activities in support of their local K-12 schools.

Finally, I must address America’s school board members – people from all walks of life, of all hues and colors, of all political persuasions – who stepped up to the plate to serve on local boards of education. You are also called trustees! In a real sense, you are. Your constituents, with their votes, have entrusted you to become custodians of the futures of young men and women, upon whose shoulders depend the preservation, protection and defense of the longest experiment in democracy the world has ever known. Yours is, at times, a thankless job. At the same time, yours is a MONUMENTAL job. In your hands – and not in the hands of the political leaders in dysfunctional Washington – lie, in large part, the answer to the paramount question of whether “the government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth”.

In more ways than one, the work that you do as school trustees will influence, one way or the other, the caliber of future citizens you produce at high school graduation.

Which is to say, truly: Will Lincoln’s immortal words at Gettysburg find life, meaning and substance in the future adult lives of your high school graduates, because your educational system inculcated in them the virtues of core democratic values and constitutional principles while they were captive clients of the local K-12 system?

My future posts will touch upon the following key topics, among others:

  • Purpose of Education: What’s the purpose of K-12 education? Beyond academics, beyond college and work preparation, the purpose of K-12 education should be, very simply, to prepare students to be good citizens in America’s democratic society. K-12 public education should be about more than academics. Have the words good citizenship, democracy and democratic society found some space in each and every K-12 school district’s MISSION STATEMENT?
  • Inequalities in K-12 School Funding/Spending: Almost seven decades after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled “separate but equal education” was unconstitutional, a different form of unequal education has become the norm, in the form of serious K-12 funding/spending disparities among states, on the one hand, and among K-12 school districts within each state, on the other. How does this condition square with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution?
  • K-12 Merely a Federal Interest: K-12 public education has long been considered to be a local responsibility, a state function and a federal interest. Merely a federal interest, rather than a core federal responsibility! Is it desirable for K-12 education NOT being the national government’s responsibility – in the context of K-12 education’s critical role in preparing students to be good citizens who could be depended upon to help preserve, protect and defend American democracy? I contend that the federal government’s involvement in K-12 public education ought to be elevated from mere federal interest to increased federal responsibility…in the same manner that national security is, and has long been, a federal responsibility.
  • America’s Underpaid Teacher Corps: How much longer will the United States allow hard working, under-appreciated teaching corps in the K-12 system to be woefully underpaid? What does that say about the value society places on the work of people into whose hands we have entrusted the critical task of molding the hearts and minds of America’s youngsters so that they become good citizens and responsible leaders of this nation?
  • The Great Equalizer in a Democracy: Is there any doubt that in American society, K-12 education promotes equality of opportunity. For millions of America’s youth, public education is the only equalizer they have. It’s their gateway to participation in the nation’s economic life. Public schools have long been the backbone of our democracy, not just because they can train citizens, but because of what they say about individual worth and opportunity.
  • The Case for Values Education: American democracy is in peril. Congress ought to pass a law mandating Values-Based Education – “values” being defined as consisting of CORE DEMOCRATIC VALUES and CONSTITUTIONAL PRINCIPLES – for implementation by all public K-12 school systems across the U.S.A. Inculcating in the minds of our youth America’s core democratic values is not just necessary, not just desirable, but an absolute imperative – if we are to ensure that “government of the people, by the people, for the people” does not perish from the face of the earth.
  • A Clarion Call for School Boards: If Congress does not act, local school boards and state boards of education must come to the rescue. School boards can embark on an organic crusade to create a renaissance in K-12 education by adopting and implementing (if they have not done so) a values-based K-12 curriculum with strong emphasis on inculcating America’s core democratic values and constitutional principles in the minds and hearts of their students.

More than any other institution in American society, school boards are well positioned to preserve, protect and defend the longest running experiment in democracy the world has ever known, in effect helping to “spread the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

If I had the luxury of time, my blog posts would be two or three times weekly.  But because I’m busy running a small business which got launched just a few months ago, my blog posts would come out weekly, for now.

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