“We Changed Our Children’s Schools,” Ensign, June 1976, 52
One of the features of our favorite city, Seattle, Washington, was the excellent neighborhood public school system. During the twenty years we lived there, we were occasionally tempted to move to the suburbs but always finally decided to stay in the city, partly because of our high regard for the educational opportunities afforded our three children in the public schools.
With ample funding and facilities, dedicated teachers and administrators, a colorful community blend of racial, religious, and ethnic mix, the schools offered our children more than the usual education. Their interest and achievement were high, and they learned to appreciate their schoolmates of varying social backgrounds.
In the more recent years, however, we saw a changing school administration begin to depart from the former sound and tested fiscal and educational policies. With federal funds providing impetus, they began to make radical changes in methods and curriculum. Untried innovations in instruction caused a deterioration in student interest and a precipitous decline in achievement and learning. Other policies ruined student morale, fostering serious problems of security, morality, and drug abuse.
This alarming deterioration motivated many of us to increase our activity and service in the Parent Teacher Association and the elected school advisory councils. In a large high school area, roughly corresponding to our ward boundaries, concerned parents and friends obtained a voting mandate by electing some of us to positions in both organizations.
With a Church background for getting things done cooperatively in meetings, the LDS members began to exert influence upon the school administration. While supportive of the good programs, we were able to win an optional return to the traditional curriculum and teaching methods. To reduce student intimidation and manhandling assaults in halls and school grounds, and to cut down drug and morality abuses, we obtained increased security. We won greater parent interest and involvement and added the S of student participation, creating a PTSA. As a citizen advisory council we publicized the need for better prior evaluation of innovative teaching methods and proved to the citizens that they had an actual voice in the decisions of their elected officials. Those officials who have not proved to be qualified or representative of community opinion have gradually been replaced.
These experiences again proved that Latter-day Saints, when they are cooperatively united and when they actually assert themselves, provide power to leaven a great populace.
This testimony has led me toward other areas of community, business, political, and constitutional forum. It has convinced me that Latter-day Saints not only must, but can help produce the social changes we so desperately need.