One of our greatest American institutions — public schools — will open for business in Colquitt County within a week. Teachers already are in their classrooms getting ready for the young minds they must challenge.

For the past several years, we have heard appeals from religious organizations for parents, in wholesale mode, to abandon the public school systems and to home school their children. This would be one of the greatest mistakes, we as a society, could make. Fortunately for our children and for our country, this is not going to happen on any grand scale.

Certainly parents have a right to home school their children. And some do a good job at it. But as numbers go, few parents have that option. They either do not have the time (both parents working) or they are not qualified to teach — and in some cases, both. Many others simply see the need to support public education and to have their children interact socially.

Our public schools get beaten about the head and shoulders routinely by those who can only see the problems there. However, for those who will look, they can see that much education takes place for those who want to learn.

Public educators have an incredible challenge. For eight hours a day, they are charged with conveying knowledge to a broad cross section of our society. And because they cannot pick and choose their students, as would a private school, a sampling of all that’s good and all that’s bad in our society will manifest itself at some point in those public classrooms.

We know that not all classrooms are equal. Some represent neighborhoods that are more affluent than others. That’s where we, the public, have a chance to help make up the difference through such programs as Family Connection and Communities In Schools, as well as other opportunities.

To make public education be all it can be, there must be a lot of energy combined from the teachers and administrators, from the students, from the parents and from the community as a whole.

Even if we don’t have children in school, we have an investment in that system and the quality of life of our community is linked exponentially to the success of our schools.

Yes, there is a place for home schooling and private schools. They serve their purpose to meet special needs. But there is a very large place and a very great purpose for public education. It is a system that is not designed to be a religious leader, nor should it be. That’s a role that must be left to the church and the family. It also is not a system in which the lesser affluent and lesser equipped (socially and physically) can be denied. Public school must be a lot of things to a lot of people.

We applaud those who choose to be public educators. We know your job is a tough one, given the many issues that your students can bring into your lives — issues that you cannot control.

Hats off to you!

A challenge to parents: Please get involved. You are a major factor in the success equation.

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