One of the things I thought about doing when I returned home from Iraq was getting involved in local politics. Specifically school politics. I care a lot about education and thought I could be of some help just by being involved. My wife, Annalisa, said I could get involved right away by going to three simultaneous events at my son's school: Wharton Elementary School in Lancaster: dinner, Parent Advisory Council meeting, and Parent Teacher Organization meeting.
530pm--free dinner supplied by the school. Chicken fingers, mashed potatoes and applesauce for the kids, turkey, ham or roast beef "wrap" sandwiches for the adults. Water and iced tea were the drinks--no soda in school. Annalisa, Nigel and I got in line and ate at the green formica-covered tables that fold down from the walls in the gym. About a dozen families showed up for dinner.
6pm--we went upstairs to the library and the PAC meeting. PAC organizes events and support for teachers at the school. The only guys in the room besides me were a local bookstore owner in the audience, the head of the group, Nigel.
645pm--Annalisa and Nigel left for Nigel's basketball practice.
655pm--the meeting switched from PAC to PTO. The bookstore owner left. The meeting continued for another 45 minutes discussing PTO business and plans.
The 16 parents (14 moms, 2 dads) who attended the meeting were not attracted by the free food. I knew many of them, at least by sight. They are well-educated, involved in their child's education, encourage learning and reading by reading and learning themselves, are involved in the community, and are, therefore, not at all typical of the parents of Wharton Elementary or any other school.
In racing of every kind, you have to start to have a chance of winning. The people who show up are the people have influence. How we spend time and money are great indexes of what we really care about. It was interesting to see who really cares about education.