As I addressed a home school graduation exercise the other day, I thought -- more than once -- ah, good old human nature at work once more.
It's what happens when institutions fail or give the distinct impression they're about to. Customers head for the exits: not all of them, maybe just a handful. Yet those who do flee, taking their hopes and their children with them, tend to be people of sharp and quick perception; the kind you want around as much and as long as possible. Their departure evacuates the institution in considerable degree of priceless qualities -- sense of mission, dedication to task, willingness to work and to sacrifice.
The public schools can't hold such people? More shame for those schools. Once upon a time, the great majority of us attended them. In the 21st century, their widely advertised shortcomings and deficiencies are driving out, or keeping away altogether, people whose presence in the classroom every half-sensible educator should crave.
The ceremony at which I spoke featured two -- count 'em -- two young men, supported by scores of parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, fellow church members and well-wishers in general. A public high school principal might shrug at the loss of a mere two students from his rolls. Too bad. C'est la vie.
The two in question, nevertheless -- Eagles Scouts soon to take flight, accomplished debaters, tireless readers, international lawyers in the making -- are the sort who clearly adorn whatever company they keep. The public schools want more such, not fewer. Yet fewer and fewer they get, as more and more Americans express their distrust of the public schools' ability to impart an education such as was fairly common up to the '60s.
With the '60s, a kind of sloth and indifference and arrogance and mendacity settled over public education like a blanket. General indictments never give general satisfaction. This one won't either, I confess. We all pretty much know, in any case, what happened. The quest for "social justice" -- busing for racial balance being one instance -- drew attention away from Bunsen burners and Wordsworth.