On Eagles, Deer and School Choice

By Rex Bell

I’m going to be 63 years old in a couple of weeks, and I don’t suppose it’s uncommon for people my age to reminisce about how things have changed over the years. There isn’t much that hasn’t changed. Sometimes a lot, sometimes a little, sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. And probably sometimes, it just all depends how you look at it.

We went for a drive last week-end, and saw three bald eagles in various locations along the way. Eagles are a lot like white-tailed deer in this area, in that fifty years ago there were hardly any of them around. A few years ago the deer started making a comeback, and a few years later the eagles did the same, although it seems the deer are still more plentiful than the eagles. I do enjoy seeing them both, probably more so the eagles because they aren’t quite as common yet.

One of the raptors we saw last weekend was rising out of a cornfield along the road, with a thrashing rabbit clutched in its talons. The scene made me think that as much as I enjoy the growing population of the stately birds, a lot of rabbits, this one in particular, probably don’t share my enthusiasm. I imagine anybody who has lost a fender or a few bushels of soybeans to the increasing deer herds probably doesn’t share my enjoyment of them, either.

I’m convinced most things in our lives don’t qualify as either completely good or completely bad. While there might be a few items or ideas in the world that have absolutely no redeeming qualities at all, I realize something I find repulsive might appear totally different to another person. Broccoli, for instance, comes to mind.

Over the last couple of months, the discussion of school funding, and particularly the funding of public and charter schools, has been receiving a lot of airtime. It seemed to come up at least partly because our Governor doesn’t get along that well with our Superintendent of Public Instruction. It’s not my intention to question how Mr. Pence and Ms. Ritz have gone about resolving their differences. Most of you likely have enough questions and answers of your own already.

I have, however, noticed a great deal of animosity towards charter and private schools by many supporters of public schools, and I think we all need to question that animosity. Alternate forms of education are not being created and tested as a means to end public schools, as many would have us believe. They are instead expanding educational opportunities and choices for students and parents, along with new opportunities in home schooling co-operatives and online institutions.

I’m a longtime supporter of educational choice, and I realize that doesn’t mean we will all make the same choice. I wouldn’t necessarily expect someone who is heavily involved in the public school system to share the same enthusiasm for school choice, but we shouldn’t attempt to cast dispersions on one type of schooling in order to gain funding for another. In the end, we should be about seeing that each child gets the education that fits their needs best, and consider that different types of school might be what it takes to make that happen.

And then maybe after that, in our spare time, we could teach some of these deer to leave the soybeans alone and start eating broccoli.

Rex Bell, of Hagerstown Indiana, drives nails for a living and writes for fun. He is the author of Stinky Shorts, available at www.StinkyShorts.com . Feel free to send your comments to him at [email protected] .

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