There is a trite expression that originated in Africa that has been around for years: “It takes a village to raise a child.”

We have all heard it, said it, read it and seen it on bumper stickers, signs, posters and graffiti on walls. Sounds simple enough, not too deep, easy to figure out. The problem is living it, embracing it and making it work.

Our village, Racine, has historically done an excellent job of raising its children to be productive citizens. In the early 1970s, observers from all over the country were known to visit Racine Unified to “see how the magic happens.” Unified was a leader in the popularizing of magnet schools, which are still going strong almost 50 years later. Our city was a center of many industries from lawn mowers to garbage disposals to small power tools to insect killer and wax. Graduating seniors could enjoy commencement on Sunday and start work Monday, making great money and benefits.

In another facet of our village’s history, Racine was also nationally recognized in the school integration movement in the late 1960s and early 1970’s. The New York Times called the school integration program in Racine “a model for the nation.” They applauded the “mature manner in which this most difficult of community problems was approached.” It’s time for those types of accolades and honors to begin again and our “village” needs to step it up to make it happen.

The most notable local/international corporation, SC Johnson, has been amazing in the support of our schools and providing positive experiences for our children. Several years ago, they were a major sponsor of “Racine Reads,” a program designed to encourage our children to read. I have no idea how much capital was spent, but it had to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The winning school got a makeover of their library! This “Family Company” also enhances our children’s education by covering costs for busing and the programs themselves at several venues. The most popular are trips to the Golden Rondelle for live presentations in a wide range of programs from Sesame Street to endangered species. For many of our kids, this may be the only time they see a live performance of any kind. SCJ is certainly a large part of our village child-rearing and educational experiences.

We have a few other international companies (I won’t name them, but you probably won’t have to think too hard) who really could do more. Just to clarify, I don’t mean just money. SCJ spends a ton of cash, but they spend it on valuable programs. Research shows that recess is an important part of a child’s education. How about some new playground equipment?

I taught in two Unified elementary schools that had abysmal playgrounds. In fact, RUSD, in all of its wisdom, tore out an entire playground piece that was the most popular on the entire playground. Slide, sliding pole, steps and a wooden bridge. The bridge was deemed unsafe, but certainly seemed repairable. They replaced it with… nothing. Books for our libraries? Many classics were weeded out two years ago. (That is a whole different future blog.) On the positive side, RUSD is one of a small group of districts that has refused to cut music, strings, art and physical education. Kudos to them for that!

Another good news-bad news development regards one of Wisconsin’s favorite sons, Herb Kohl and his foundation. According to NPR, since so many teachers spend hundreds of dollars on necessary classroom materials, he committed to grant every Wisconsin teacher’s wish on the Go Fund Me website, gofundme.com. A former colleague and second grade teacher here in Racine confirmed that this is true when she posted on Facebook that her request was fulfilled just this morning. According to WUWM, the total for Mr. Kohl is over $500,000! This is both amazing for him to do yet a sad commentary on our society’s priorities. His village of one epitomizes the expression which opened this blog.

Come on Racine business leaders, let’s support our village and the nearly 20,000 students who learn here, public, parochial, charter and all!

 

 

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