I don’t know how to speak with a president … but I can speak well enough with any father.
So, let us speak as fathers … and of the dreams we dream for our own children.
Then we should imagine that we are dreaming for all sorts of children … because that is your new job … and that was my old job for a long, long while.
I should say straight away that my own children are grown and flown … like most of yours. But, as you know, families grow … and new stars join the troupe and steal the spotlight. Like your Barron… and my young Aidan.
I’ve seen you lose yourself in that boy’s face. I have. It’s the sort of thing I pay attention to because … because I do the same. All the time. That “circle of life” stuff gets extra-real in people our age. And finally … we learn to pay attention to what really matters. The sweet, small stuff … like a child’s face.
You are a busy man. I am not so busy at all.
You are the president of a great country … and I am the chief of a very small tribe. You were once a business man … and I was once a history teacher.
And what busies you hardly busies me.
My responsibilities are now sweet and simple … I only have to be on time for baseball games and perhaps explain old civilizations now and then.
You have only to worry about a country … and perhaps the rest of the world.
See? We do have things in common. So … now we can talk.
Children teach us to keep our promises. Nothing winces a father more than the face of a disappointed child. Break a promise … break a heart. I’ve sinned that sin … I’m sure you have, too.
And now … now everything about your life is suddenly larger than ever before. Your challenges. Your promises. And perhaps even your disappointments.
But for a moment, let’s shrink your world so it looks more like mine … and the folks who placed their hopes and dreams in you. The people who believed your promises. Not-so-famous people … except to the children who look up to them, and hang on their every promise.
Childhood is a quick moment. It’s the maker of first memories … and we make big deals of firsts. First words. First steps. First everything.
We should never forget that school is life’s first great adventure. That break-free moment that puts the first crack in every parent’s heart. That anxious adios … even if it lasts for just a few hours.
We fanny-pat them and cup their tiny faces for one last boost … and send them off to the first brave solo-moment of their brand new lives.
We are both joyed and jittered by this daring episode.
But for many parents … things are not as we remember.
Schools have been nightmared. Children guinea-pigged … poisoned by imposter-reformers and their pedagogical idiocy.
So many seem intent on reinventing childhood … swapping out sandboxes and monkey bars for hypnotizing iPads and abusive testing circumstances. Many classroom reforms are simply ludicrous … and harming.
There’s so much wrong with this reform, it’s a miracle schools haven’t been pitchforked by parent-mobs.
They’re calling out school leaders for odd-ball curriculum changes. Even demanding legislation for … are you ready, Mr. President? … for recess. For play time. For six year olds.
It’s that sick, sir.
They’re frustrated by politicians-turned-Socrates who dismiss their concerns … and permit creepy-freaky social engineers to bend the lives of their children.
Master-teachers … once the most trusted regents of our children … have been exiled to the edges of every reform discussion. Their common sense expertise suddenly dismissed as Dark Age know-how.
These spring months turn children into school-loathing messes because fraudy-gurus insist that “grit and rigor” are imperative antidotes to wasteful childhoods of discovery and play.
These hoaxers demand that hyper-dramatized assessments be homaged as the new tools of educational excellence. Real-deal teachers are threatened into silent compliance. And so … hundreds of thousands of enraged parents are refusing abusive testing in state after state … Georgia … Texas … New York … Michigan … Florida.
The outrage is exploding.
This is what happens when schools are hijacked by an interfering government and bungling bureaucrats.
It’s what happens when disconnected theoreticians pretend to understand children … and dare to claim parental regency over them.
It’s what happens when self-anointed wizards decided that only government can wrench us out of the educational Middle Ages … and make us as advantaged as … as Sweden. And Singapore. Or Switzerland.
And caught in this cyclone of nonsense are small people. Young children … like your Barron … and my Aidan. But not as well protected.
So … millions of innocents are anguished … and their parents agonized.
Never has there been a more toxic reform effort than Common Core … and all that churns around it. It is a harmful failure. A disturbing, national mess.
Mothers and fathers across America witnessed your promise to end Common Core … and they signed that contract in the ballot booth.
Never was the “art of the deal” so serious for so many.
They asked for their schools back … and for childhood to be restored.
They asked that childhood education be balanced again … in challenge and joy … so they, too, can dream dreams for their children.
So they signed on the dotted line.
Now you are the president of great people. And I am still the chief of a small tribe.
And one day, Barron and Aidan will read of this … and know if we both kept our promise.
Let’s not disappoint anyone.