Tough Times

As I write, the sun is shining, and it’s warm outside. Early-season flowers are starting to bloom. And this morning at 6:45, I noticed that it was amazingly bright out for such an early hour. We’re definitely moving into springtime!

As temperatures rise, the rain eases off, and the days get longer, the economic news is still full of clouds and gloom. Shortly after noting the brightness of the hour this morning, two news items, rooted in the economic situation, caught my interest.

The first item detailed how the Bellingham School District is planning to cope with revenue shortfalls. As a citizen, and parent of a student in this district, I want it to provide the best possible education. And yet, the budget proposal reduces funding for field trips, for highly-capable learner programs, for outdoor education, and for music and arts. On top of all that, it also proposes an increase in class sizes.

The second item was from the New York Times, chronicling the dilemmas faced by parents of independent school students as they seek to balance economic stress with their commitment to their children’s education. Nobody doubts that independent school is expensive, but all of us are striving to make our household budgets work, while still ensuring that our kids are engaged, interacting in a healthy social environment, and gaining the skills to be positive leaders in the world.

And this is what it comes down to. As things tighten up, how do you manage? What values define you? We all need to put food on the table. The basics are the basics. But it is not our basic needs that define us; we are defined by our principles, our aspirations, and our long range goals. At tough times, it gets harder to keep these defining values in mind. The tendency is to become short-term oriented and self-focused, to shift to survival mode. This survival mode can become contagious and reduce the capacity of the whole society.

We have choices. We’ll need to make tough calls to ensure that the basics get covered. But every challenge can be approached in more than one way. An atmosphere of scarcity can lead to increased community, to a clearer definition of shared goals, and to shifts in thinking that relinquish less-vital investments to allow the truly vital things to endure.

However long this difficult time lasts, we can be sure that there will be others down the road, each with their own unique symptoms and challenges. We are heading into an uncertain future, one that becomes less predictable with every new technology, cultural shift, and ecological impact. The only way to responsibly educate young people in such times is by giving them the tools to manage the complexities and uncertainties.

Thus: An emphasis on compassion, positive relationships, and understanding diverse views. Attention to critical thinking and gaining a careful understanding of issues. Creative problem solving to generate new solutions. And nurturing a global perspective to match the increasingly interconnected nature of our concerns.

Explorations is committed to preparing young people for these challenges ahead. As Franklin D. Roosevelt, a visionary who led our society through a previous crisis, said: “It is not always possible to build the future for our youth. We must build our youth for the future.”

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One Comment on “Tough Times”

  1. Carmen Says:

    Thanks for putting things into perspective.


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