Monday, February 19, 2007

You Fail, We All Fail

This morning, my co-worker handed me a baggy of Box Tops For Education. I wish I could say the baggy was filled with something far more exciting in a socially recognized sense, like Peruvian marching powder. You'd say, "What an invigorating life Miss Tata leads, and just look at all that danger! The possibility of imminent arrest! The eventual need for reconstructive rhinoplasty! That tears it! I'm going to run right out and develop a drug habit so I can be just like her!"

Well, of course, you're dying to be just like me, and who can blame you? Today is one of those days you're going to have a new and delightful idea. Yes, you will! And here it is: despite our early conditioning that leads us to think otherwise, teachers are not actually locked in closets at night, only to emerge each morning, a little L'Eau du Mothball dabbed behind each ear, to bore us senseless. No! They're our friends and neighbors. Teachers live among us, just like normal people. There's just no shame in it anymore. And these teachers struggle with taxes and budgets and equipment-this and expectation-that more than you might realize - especially the really good ones - to educate children each and every day.

You can help, even if you can't bring yourself to go to one of those stultifying school board meetings where they're planning a universe-changing vote on chalk. If you live in a wealthy school district, you can even help level the playing field for poor districts. It is breathakingly simple: put an envelope in the corner of your kitchen and when you see this logo on something you bought in the grocery store, cut it out. Drop that little piece of paper or plastic into the envelope. As the envelope fills, you now have an exciting opportunity to be - yes! you've been so patient! - just like me.

The Box Tops For Education site offers you credit cards, if you want to go that far but I can't see how creating personal debt for public finance makes sense. You can create an account, they offer coupons. If you use a whole lot of these products: good for you! If not, you may fill up that kitchen envelope once in a great long while - which is fine. Kids will still need school supplies when you've finally finished that bag of flour in two years.

I don't have school-age children. Miss Sasha is 23, married and living on an Air Force base in the Deep South. There's nothing personally in it for me to save and send off these things in a capricious manner to a random school in a struggling school district or hand them off to friends who teach. There's hardly a stigma anymore to meeting them in public! Since I'm always in a mood to have a delightful secret, I mail them off anonymously and smile for a week.

So I'm staring at this baggy and thinking: do I send this to one struggling school? Divide it in half and mail it to two? Where can it do some good? I'm breathless, just thinking about it.



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