Article first published as Thinking in Shades of Gray on Technorati.
The tension of a paradox can be paralyzing. Few problems today can be answered as right or wrong. Success will surely go to those who can find the best answer among many right answers. The current debate over immigration law in Alabama is an opportunity for our kids to practice thinking in the shades of gray.
Are we obligated to provide education to all children—regardless of citizenship?
Education leads to freedom and peace
Alabama’s law, among other things, requires school officials verify the citizenship of students. Heavily targeting the Hispanic community, the opposition claims the result has been increased bullying and a drop in Hispanic student attendance.
Freedom is the ability to act with choice and reason. Controlling your choices requires an awareness of options and a rational, educated mind with which to evaluate them. Helplessness triggers fear; fear hijacks rational thinking. Education and support replace fear with confidence and peace.
Freedom isn’t free
Just ask a veteran or the parent of a vet how much was paid in the name of freedom. If you don’t know anyone to ask then look at your tax bill—freedom is expensive. Money is a big factor in the availability of quality education—money that pays teachers and supports students.
Twenty years of causality debates about class sizes and academic achievement have settled nothing. Some argue teachers can’t be effective with too many students while others say a great teacher with a solid plan can overcome the obstacle. It’s true, a great teacher can do great things; however we can’t be sure that our kids will land an excellent teacher K – 12. Watch Davis Guggenheim’s, Waiting for Superman, and see what I mean.
The Center for Public Education says academic achievement requires:
- Smaller classes (K-3), 18:1 teacher/student ratio max;
- Minority and low-income students need small class sizes in primary grades;
- Teacher experience/preparation is critical;
- Professional development for teachers is essential.
According to the Institute for Education Science, the average public elementary school operates with a 20:1 ratio—24:1 in secondary schools. Compare this to 13:1 for private schools. Crowded classrooms are issues of money.
To educate a child in public school for one year costs about $10,500 and it comes from property taxes. Therefore the financial burden for education falls to those who pay property taxes. Though the IRS and the Immigration Policy Council assume property taxes are collected from unauthorized immigrants through rental payments, it seems a fairly big assumption. If renting to the undocumented is construed as harboring, it could discourage landlords from disclosing that rental income.
The Paradox of Gray
The questions about education, obligation, and freedom are certainly complex. On one hand, education is essential to peace and on the other hand quality education depends upon responsible financial planning. Both sides of the debate have valid arguments, yet neither has “the” right answer. As the world grows more intricate, the successful leader will be one who is free to think in the shades of gray because that’s where solutions to complex problems are found. Thinking and conflict resolution are skills strengthened by pondering difficult issues like this. You are the catalyst that influences a debate at home that provides your children the opportunity to practice thinking.
Related Tip of the Week: Dissent,
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