On Instilling Humanity

An email exchange between Bartlesville Representative, Travis Dunlap, and one of his constituents has a few people riled up.  It began as an email from a citizen concerned about the effect Education Savings Accounts (ESA’s), or Vouchers, as it were, would have on an already financially crippled public education system in our state. In the exchange, Dunlap refers to public schools as “Atheist-based”, a description he goes on to admit was a poor choice of words. Dunlap told a Bartlesville newspaper, the Examiner-Enterprise (see link above),

 

“I, in no way, wanted to insult teachers or people who are in the schools, or comment, really, on anything that the schools were doing,” Dunlap said Thursday. “It was merely an acknowledgement of what our society and culture has decided would be the basis for schools, which a more useful term would have been secular.

 

Dunlap goes on to say,

 

“(Atheism) doesn’t instill a value for humankind, it doesn’t instill a value for relationships and love. This is just not covered in schools, just like atheism,”

 

Insert disgruntled emoji here.

 

During my junior year of high school, I was fortunate enough to have the social studies teacher who headed up our Christmas outreach, “Moore for Christmas”, which benefited families in need in our community. We spent the month of December in the library sorting through canned goods donations, and going door to door in the halls to collect change for purchasing hams and turkeys. It was a far better lesson in civics than we could have learned from our textbook.

 

But we don’t instill a value for humankind in public schools.

 

As an educator who teaches her students for multiple years, my office has become a safe place for many students during difficult times. They have shared their stories. “My parents are divorcing.” “My boyfriend broke my heart.” “My grandma died last week.” “I feel invisible.” “I’m overwhelmed.” They have wept. And I have listened. And occasionally offered a hug, or a kind word. For some students, it might have been the first in a long while.

 

But we don’t instill a value for humankind in public schools.

 

My school is revving up for “SWAG Week”, a multi-faceted school-wide philanthropic effort that will raise money for a specific cause. This “week”, primarily organized by students, will actually last several and takes months of preparation throughout the year. This year, the recipient of the fruits of SWAG week is a single-parent family with four children, one of whom was recently diagnosed with cancer. A colleague of mine once told me a similar effort at his school raises around $300,000 each year. From student efforts. Kids.

 

But we don’t instill a value for humankind in public schools.

 

A few weeks ago, a story made the rounds about a first-grader donating all the money he had to his school. Our state won’t properly fund education, so we’re relying on our citizens, even our youngest, to pick up the slack?

 

But we don’t teach humanity in public schools.

 

When my boosters needed money to help send me to a conference in Kansas City with my students, it was two of my former pupils who were the first to step up and pledge funds. “Somebody did it for us, and now it’s time for us to return the favor,” they said.

 

But we don’t instill a value for humankind in public schools.

 

Here’s a picture of the student body at Southmoore High School giving Special Olympics students a standing ovation at a pep rally:

File Feb 27, 10 59 19 AM

 

But we don’t instill a value for humankind in public schools.

 

I find it especially hypocritical that Rep. Dunlap makes these serious accusations while a member of a legislature that has cut to the bone Medicaid, public schools, and DHS, services that help the poorest of Oklahomans, many of whom are children. I’m a cradle Methodist and a pastor’s wife, and the last time I checked Jesus was pretty adamant about that whole “caring for the poor and needy” thing. Perhaps Rep. Dunlap needs to tend to the log in his own eye.

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