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Civil Disobedience

Last Friday many of us attended a rally against the mask mandates in New Mexico. You can find information about the event here. Everyone has a point where they begin to feel coerced, rather than led. The line is different for everyone, but for many of us, that line has been reached. Our leaders need to understand that they are servants, not rulers.

For 18 months we have been compromising with masking, lockdowns, and now with coerced vaccinations. I hope we can all agree that we draw the line with our kids. Parents know what’s best for their children, not politicians. As advocates for freedom, we urge everyone to search their conscience and decide where they are willing to compromise, and stand firm where they are not.

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Choice gives Hope!

The events of Friday, August 13, at Washington Middle School in Albuquerque horrify all of us. Here is a report by the NY post. Our prayers go out to the family of the deceased; to lose a child in such a senseless way must be an indescribable, living nightmare.

Ever since the Columbine shooting in Littleton, Colorado, there has been debate about how to prevent school shootings. As wonderful as it would be, we can never eradicate evil actions. The violence perpetrated on children by children justifiably looms large collectively and prompts calls to prevent such atrocities. What causes young people to commit violence against peers? I used to joke with colleagues how the public school system resembles jail. For many students, this is an apt comparison.

Just like so many others, I used to feel trapped in middle and high school. Many nights I would lie awake, fearing what might happen in the upcoming, inescapable school day. I might be socially harassed, physically assaulted, or personally embarrassed once again. Some kids deal with harassment splendidly. Some do not. While improving the current public school system is everyone’s concern, some kids are simply not well-served in the type of environment that public schools provide. Regimented schedules are necessary for control as there can only be one adult for many children. In recess and other times, this “Lord of the Flies” environment is amplified. From these artificial social environments, terribly detrimental interactions can arise. In my immediate family alone we have seen bullying, physical assault, and even pistols being used in school grounds to intimidate and terrorize. While this would normally be reported to the police, children and teenagers very often do not. A child can’t imagine that leaving this social environment is an option because sometimes, the option does not exist. Another word for option is choice.

School choice is seldom considered by teacher’s unions and local governments alike to improve the lives of their students. While we cannot know (thus help) every troubled child, we can give hope to every student in the form of real options. Many kids thrive in regimented public classrooms and climb the social ladder “cool kids” impose on their grade. Those who do not, should have the option to leave. All should have the option to learn in the environment best suited for them personally. Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) are the best way to achieve this. ESAs are programs where a percentage of state funds (not federal or local) are directly given to families that qualify in order to spend on their child’s education. What hope this could bring to thousands of children in families of modest means!

Some schools resemble jails where children are placed in inescapable social situations. Having options is what differentiates freedom from incarceration.

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8/16/21 Monday meeting

Thank you for caring about the future of education in New Mexico!
Our next guest presenter is the director of Right to Life New Mexico and Gubernatorial candidate, Ethel Maharg! Ethel has a lifetime of experience in leadership positions around the state. You won’t want to miss this meeting!
Monday, August 16th, 5:30-7:00pm
1429 Central Ave. NW, Suite 1
Albuquerque, NM
You can find an interview of Ethel Maharg from 2019 here (interview begins at the 11:30 mark).
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To live in fear, or fear not living?

 A good friend of mine just died of cancer. She was in her early 40s and struggled with a brain tumor for years. One of the songs we talked about on occasion was  Live like you were dying,” by Tim McGraw.

I always admired her outlook on life and how she lived it. She truly became an inspiration. Knowing that death was imminent freed her up to live life to the fullest. She travelled, she spent time with her family, she allowed herself to speak her mind and share her feelings knowing that her time was limited. It was her confrontation and acceptance of reality that allowed her to live her best life. While she still had fears, she intrinsically knew there are more important things than death and disease. What freedom! It seems to me that by constantly trying to remove all risk, we are teaching children to do exactly the opposite: to be trapped in their own minds, to be afraid of others, and not to overcome the risks of life. These mask mandates for children in schools are harmful. While covering up the face might be socially and psychologically harmful for younger children, what does it teach the older students about confronting the world as it is and learning to mitigate fears? Covid-19 is not the only transmissible virus, or by any means the deadliest.

There will never be a zero-risk environment anywhere for anyone. Many kids intuit these masks are dirty and useless, but in order not to get in trouble they also learn to fear speaking up; easier to just do as they’re told, even after going on two years of this life disruption. Even though viruses have always killed a significant number of people each year, life still went on. Traditionally we have dealt with these threats not by scaring the healthy—separating them and scaring them into believing that the world is scary—but instead urging people to become more resilient. If you’re scared of this or that disease, you can make your body stronger by being healthy, getting a vaccine, educating yourself, and using common sense. I hope we can start teaching students once again that the most beautiful life is lived on the other side of fear, rather than teaching them that fear should dictate how they live. In 2020 we became afraid of dying. If we must pay attention to any fear, I hope we will become more afraid of not living. 

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Sexual Assault in “Public” Schools

Given our general, cultural obsession with sexual assault within the Catholic Church, we would think that cases of assault within the public school system would be at least as widely publicized. Not so. Local reports such as this one by KOB4 hardly get any traction in the culture at large. With sexual assault of minors hovering around 15,000 a year in public schools (as reported by the Wall Street Journal), one wonders why we have such a permissive and deferential attitude towards public education in general. Yes, a great teacher can change the life of a child, but great teachers who are proud of their work welcome parental input, accountability, and scrutiny of their methods. Great teachers want parents to come see them work. This Danny Aldaz (as reported by the KOB4 article linked above) actually created private spaces within his classroom that would shield him from view. There should have never been a possibility for such behavior. Why aren’t parents encouraged to sit at the back of the classroom while their children learn? If the demand is too great for the available space, there might be a lottery to see which parents get in. The public school system is very familiar with lottery systems, as that is the only way some poor families have of escaping their failing schools, after all. 

Push back against sexual assault in the Catholic Church is welcomed and warranted. The movies, the articles, the books, the documentaries, the late-night tv roasts… all great. Why don’t we see even a tenth of that energy directed against an institution that sees the sexual assault of 15,000 children A YEAR!? An exit from this government school monopoly needs to be a present option for all of us. The public education system is not co-parenting our children. They are here to serve. If they are not serving us to our utmost satisfaction, we must go elsewhere. For the sake of our children, our attitude and deference towards this institution must change, otherwise people like this Danny Aldaz will always be shielded by a wall of bureaucracy that only cares about preserving the interests of its members first. 

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Monday meeting, Aug. 2nd

Our next guest presenter is Ali Ennenga. She is the last speaker scheduled running for APS school board. Hope to see you there!
Monday, August 2nd, 5:30-7:00pm
1429 Central Ave. NW, Suite 1
Albuquerque, NM
You can find a promotional video of Ali here: Ali Ennenga for School Board.
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Critical Race Theory

As the battle over Critical Race Theory (CRT) is heating up around the country, we believe that a sober approach to the subject is needed. While encouraging white children to be ashamed of themselves for the historical past is not good, neither is government action dictating what a teacher will or will not teach. Government power might seem like a panacea at the moment, but it will end up causing more harm than good. As usual, the best answers come from the local level. Individual parents, grandparents, and guardians must get involved in the lives and education of our children. CRT is a large body of academic work that belongs at the university level. Children simply do not have the life experience or emotional maturity to deal with some of these issues. The concept of intersectionality is a good example. Interesting academic topic, but not appropriate for children. How can a child grasp the concept of social or political power as applied to them and their family?

By all means, we must teach age-appropriate, accurate history with all its beautiful and horrific aspects. How that history applies to an individual child, their families, and their friends, is a matter best left to the child’s family, place of worship, and extended community. The local public school cannot become a place of political activism, social engineering, and theological indoctrination. If we are to flourish as local communities, this is an issue that must be resolved. We at OAKNM urge a focus on the ultimate goal: the well-being of students. Like this article suggests, there seems to be a growing entrenchment on both sides. After essentially a lost year in education, let’s direct resources, time, and energy to the most important tasks at hand, instead of turning schools into hubs of political activism.

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The normalization of cheating

As an educator, it was my experience that teaching exclusively online during the 2020 pandemic was not very effective. Not only were certain things impossible to teach through a screen—things such as music lessons, the arts, acting and speech— but the subjects which did lend themselves easily to online teaching lost something as well. Mostly lecture based classes such as history can be easily delivered online, but the personal interaction is completely lost. Noticing the student in the back who might be uncomfortable with a subject, bumping into the student in the hall who was wondering about a subject that I happen to have a book about… all of these serendipitous interactions are suddenly lost, and students become impersonal faces on a screen. Online teaching also leads to further complications in learning assessment, i.e., testing. Due to the almost complete isolation experienced by most students, a plurality have started to cheat in order to get ahead on their assignments, as the Wall Street Journal has found in this investigation. This is no small matter in terms of a cultural shift. There is a big difference between omitting information to be socially courteous and passing off another’s work as one’s own. The latter is theft, and a culture that tolerates theft is not one that will flourish long. 

If you are interested in making a difference in our educational system, please consider joining our meetings, every first and third Monday of the month. 

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Monday, July 19th Meeting

Thank you for your interest in improving the education system of NM. This upcoming Monday we have Representative and gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Dow zooming in to speak with us briefly (information about her campaign here) as well as APS school board candidate Celia Cortez joining us live. Hope to see you there!
OAKNM Meeting
Monday, July 19th, 5:30-7:00pm
1429 Central Ave. NW, Suite 1
Albuquerque, NM

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Cuban Protests

Cuban protests have once again reminded us of the nightmare socialism imposes on populations that implement it, regardless of noble initial intentions. I have been struck by the chants of no tenemos miedo! (“we are not afraid!”), a cry of defiance requiring deep courage in the face of actual danger from a despotic government. The Cuban regime has now shut off all internet communication, a development that’s of grave concern to those of us with family on the island. Who knows how many will disappear and what the government will do in order to maintain control–with the excuse of doing so for the good of the people, of course. Propaganda about Cuba’s health care and educational systems abound. This socialist pipe dream has been kept alive in the U.S. by people who have never experienced the nightmare of living under real socialism. The generous safety net available in the U.S. is only made possible by the free market! The abundance made possible from free markets should never be confused with socialism, which can only extract, redistribute, and impose by force. After 60 years of such an oppressive system, it’s obvious Cuba needs Free Markets (also known as Capitalism!) in all its sectors in order for its people to thrive. Viva Cuba Libre!