Friday, January 30, 2009

The Middlesex News carried a story today about the funding disaster of Framingham High. It is simply a sad story and a reflection of our times so I wrote to the News:

Framingham High -- a Time to Weep: I am a 1966 graduate of Framingham South High School. My heart aches to see such negative news about it. It is trying to plod its way through the quicksand of inadequate funding, a catastrophic layoff of teachers and, because of that, students are now sitting in study halls since there are not enough teachers to provide more classes for them. It is tragic. I am staggered by the extraordinary rise in taxes over the years which were supposed to go to fund educational facilities. Where did that money go?

It was a brand new school in 1962 when I first entered and I was awestruck. It was the best and we considered ourselves so lucky to have had the first “language lab.” I remember nearly all of my teachers. I still use Latin phrases, and words I memorized in Miss Vancavage's Latin class. I loved that school and my town. My heart breaks and I believe it is nearly criminal that it is so desperate for adequate funding. It saddens me when the quality of what I knew seems utterly diminished. The difficult times in which live and many other things engender such a story.

I went back to see the Framingham South building, which is no longer the high school, over a decade ago and found lockers defaced, bathrooms destroyed, doors gouged with graffiti and a general atmosphere that reflected disrespect for the wonder of a school and a community that would offer a person such a unique opportunity to learn for free. The desecration of that building was nearly a blasphemous experience for me and I was angered.

I cannot say one bad thing about a school that gave me a first rate education for free. I proceeded on to college. A family member went on to Harvard and Harvard Medical through the avenues of the Framingham school system. What I learned there I still carry with me. It was a time when students cared, when few brazenly spoke back to teachers, when there was no such thing as graffiti on lockers or bathroom doors and it was a time when no one heard of a lack of funding for classes. It was a time of respect for our school and the teachers in it.

What happened to that wonderful time when we did not know the ways of a depressing the world? For some, I know, it was not an idyllic era but for me, educationally, it was. I mourn that time's passing. I mourn Framingham High, all the other schools in Massachusetts and our nation that have suffered such a fate. I weep for schools that are a maze of mess where lockers are defaced, the rooms filthy, and the bathrooms overflowing. It is a reflection that few care and, I believe, not many do.

This story is larger than Framingham High, of course. It represents, I think, the vulgarization of our culture and it represents parenting at its worst. Add to that cacophony a lack of funding because of, most importantly, the Wall Street disaster and the brew is toxic. Where has our culture, our state and our country gone wrong? No one has cared and our country reflects just that.