To the hundreds of thousands of children in West Virginia: we are sorry. We are sorry that we let you down. We are sorry that your futures are worth less than the political implications to people in power whom you’ve never met. We are sorry that your educations are only valuable to the extent they line the pockets of adults benefiting from the current mediocrity.
We are – in so many ways – sorry.
We are sorry that abusers are allowed to retain a level of dignity in resignation, while the most vulnerable among you must suffer the indignity of abuse at the very hands of those we’ve assigned to educate and protect you.
We are sorry that, according to many, your parents cannot be trusted to make educational decisions for you, because, you see, they are too ill-informed about your needs. No, they cannot possibly be allowed to make those decisions for you – that must be left to strange adults and their powerful friends in Charleston.
Parents are great for staying up all night with you when you’re sick, reading you to sleep, protecting you when something goes bump in the night, helping you practice your multiplication tables but remember this – they are not to be trusted with your education. Trust must be reserved for the bureaucracy.
“Bureaucracy” – a word you may or may not learn. You see, it may just depend on where your parents can afford to live. Remember that for many of you, your zip code determines your destiny.
We are sorry that we do not believe you’re worthy of having access to the same opportunities millions of your fellow Americans have had access to for decades – choice. We are sorry that we fear trying something different – something that could change your life immeasurably for the better. We are afraid that if we give you new opportunities, some of you may benefit.
We are sorry that we’re hypocrites. We tell you to be bold, innovative, and to explore new ways of doing things, but we cannot allow that to occur in the things we control.
Boldness and experimentation for thee, but not for we.
We are sorry that some of us conduct ourselves in ways for which you might be grounded or put in detention. You must respectfully listen to your peers and classmates, because you just might learn something. Really, though, that’s only for you. Not for us. Some perspectives must be mocked and derided. Some people must be bullied. Some peers must be shamed.
Class and decorum for thee, but not for we.
We are sorry that we lie to you, but please know that we mean well when we tell you that things are just fine. Please don’t be upset when you venture out beyond these borders. We are sorry that many of you will be years behind your peers when you leave us. For reasons you will come to understand, it had to be that way.
We are sorry that we are scared, but change is scary and, sadly, bullies never really go away. We are sorry that you and your future are caught in our political crossfire, but we must keep you in our system. You mean jobs, power, prestige, and publicity for some among us. That’s way it’s always been done, so that’s the way it must always be.
We really did mean it when we said, “Our Students First.” Unfortunately, many folks did not realize the most important word in that slogan – “our.” For our purposes. For our power. For our perpetuation. We are sorry. It was in front of us all along.
Things will eventually change; please know that. Take solace knowing that we will wake up … one day. It may be too late for you, but we hope that you’ll forgive us. You’ll understand.
We are sorry.