Most school problems can be solved efficiently

The McCordsville elementary school teacher did not commit an outrageous mistake when she sent a note home to discourage children from using religious vocabulary at school. The superintendent seems to have handled it very well.

The Daily Reporter noted that one parent took her outrage to Facebook, which immortalized the teacher’s note. The proper response would’ve been to contact the teacher by email, phone or a note, depending on one’s schedule and emotional state.

Before I moved to New Palestine in 1996, a Colorado-based organization called Focus on the Family was encouraging Christians around the country to be on the lookout for evil tendencies in public schools, where millions of Christians are employed and doing great work in every state of the union.

Some Christian parents became concerned about a seventh-grade math teacher who was said to be teaching godless things to their kids. One father stood in the back of her classroom and video-recorded her as a means of serving notice that the community was keeping an eye on her. I knew all the people, and there was no reason for their un-Christian intimidation.

Focus on the Family has been under new leadership for some years now and no longer encourages such action. But the previous director was in full force when I came to New Palestine, and many Christians here were under his influence in regard to public schools. I was told Doe Creek was going to hell in a hand basket, and that all kinds of harm were in progress.

I, myself, was hired on to an enrichment team called Unified Arts at New Palestine Elementary. Some locals took “unified” to be part of a trend toward a one-world government. Our team taught art, P.E., music and Spanish in the form of innovative instructional activities you might never see anywhere else — no political agenda.

That four-part curricular team was installed by the superintendent whose leadership style and educational philosophy were under intense fire. Some people loved her, others did not. But one thing was sure – the tone and content of the conversations and gestures against her violated the behavioral code our school staffs enforced in the student body.

Furious board members, teachers and parents claimed that scientific studies proved the superintendent’s ideas were anti-educational, and yet none of those people had the background to evaluate the research (which actually did not invalidate the superintendent’s ideas).

A new superintendent was hired, things went back to normal, and a slim majority got its way. That’s hardly the kind of cooperation schools try to foster in students, but it’s life in the real world. People have the right to vote leaders in and out.

However, parents do a lot of damage by airing their suspicions publicly. It is not outrageous when a teacher tries to control religious or other vocabulary to keep order. Nobody’s basic rights are in danger. It’s not a sign that the schools are going to hell in a hand basket, and that the devil is running the system.

Most problems can usually be solved efficiently and gracefully in schools. The main thing we have to worry about is maintaining open warm communication with each other.

Tantalizing rumors will always be circulating about somebody and will usually be false or exaggerated. I have known a few thousand people up close in Hancock County, and almost all of them are beautiful and make regrettable mistakes.

Max T. Russell of New Palestine writes for the international business intelligence and nonprofit communities. Send comments to