Starting today, I become a part of the mob, that huge group of parents who have a kid playing interscholastic high school sports. It’s a welcome new world, no matter how many taxi rides I give my daughter to and from practice.
Prior to this, I had been a second-hand observer of the genre. But attending thousands of high school athletic events over the years has given me a chance to observe parental behavior as close to first-hand as possible. You’ll be glad to know that the stereotype of the egomanic, bitchy, whiny parent is just that: a stereotype.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, they’re out there and they suck every bit as much as you think they do. But I can’t stress enough what a tiny minority they are. Most of the parents are the ones you see serving you hot chocolate with a smile at halftime of some dreary mercy-rule football game. Most athletes’ parents are good folk. Period.
So, as a newly minted high school sports parent – my daughter Halle is a freshman field hockey goalie at Central Dauphin – I’m doing my best to be a properly mannered member of the mob. My experience with the small number of idiots I’ve encountered should serve me well in this regard.
In that vein, I’ve been doing my due diligence, which includes checking out the CD website for appropriate information. Just last night, I saw the CD School District mission statement for, I dunno, the 300th time. Only this time, I read it. And I have to acknowledge some amusement.
The CD mission statement is one of those chest-thumping statements designed to make the author feel better about himself as much as it truly represents the school district. To wit:
Central Dauphin, a uniquely diverse school district, ensures all students a challenging and dynamic curriculum that prepares them to succeed in a changing, global society by inspiring lifelong learning in a caring, collaborative community.
That statement has more fat in it than a fried Oreo.
Uniquely diverse? CD? Are they kidding? If we’re talking racial diversity, CD has some of that, but any time I roll into CD, the white isn’t just limited to the Rams’ sports uniforms. A sprinkling of races are represented as are the two available genders, but CD looks like, well, Lower Paxton and West Hanover Twp. CD East gets a little higher score non this account, I imagine, but the bigger question is: Who cares? Why is CD more focused on diversity than unity?
Let’s assume that in this case “diversity” has nothing to do with race (and I certainly hope that’s the case, but really, what’s this first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word?) Does “diversity” mean the physical – students of all shapes and sizes – or the mental – students of all academic abilities – or the socioeconomic? And what is unique about Central Dauphin compared to any other south central Pennsylvania school district?
I’ll reserve judgment on the “challenging and dynamic curriculum” until my daughters come face-to-face with it. I hold no bias toward it at all; I just want to see for myself how CD educates its high school students.
And I see CD students will head into a global society. And here I thought they were mostly going to the beach after graduation.
“Lifelong learning” is an admirable goal, of course, but will it be the school district or some other external influence that will inspire it? That I can’t answer – I’m not a mind-reader – but in my experience, “lifelong learning” has a whole lot more to do with life itself than with the classroom.
I do think they got the “caring, collaborative community” part right. CD is wide-spread, which stretches the word community, but it is comprised of good people. All of those state championships and scholastic honors that CD students have racked up in recent years didn’t happen because CD is full of crappy parents.
You probably wondering why I’m, to use a favored liberal term, deconstructing CD’s mission statement, something the CD administration and board are no doubt proud of and maybe even believe. I’ll tell you why: As happens so often in Educationland, it’s too many words with too much puffery and reeks of unmerited self-importance. The education world, not just CD, is full of that gibberish.
So, Mr. Critic, you have a better alternative? Yeah, I think I do.
“Preparing our students for the real world, which can be a bitch.”
That’s a mission. And that’s my statement.
Enjoy the first day of fall practice, which does as much to prepare students for the real world as any chalkboard … or mission statement.