By JAMES RICKMAN
As a product of the Los Alamos Schools system, I have been reading with some sadness the many recent letters related to our school board election and the schools themselves.
Admittedly, I grew up in a far different age—one that was probably not as “sophisticated”, by today’s standards, but one in which I received a very good education that helped launch me into a successful and productive life. I strongly believe that this success was predicated by an educational system that taught me to think, reason, and question. We were exposed to many diverse ideas and principles. For this, I remain grateful.
In those days, I recall quite vividly seeing bulletin boards outside of different classrooms festooned with colorful construction paper cut-out renditions of manger scenes, menorahs, and the jolly St. Nicholas himself during the holidays. We had bulletin boards with Easter bunnies as well as trios of crosses.
When a student would ask about the meaning of the varying displays, it became a teachable moment. As a non-Christian student, I learned early on about Judaism and Christianity. In fourth grade, a student from Iran came to the community and his parents delighted our classroom by feting us with traditional Persian foods and folklore that were an important aspect of whatever festival it was we happened to be celebrating. I don’t recall whether the celebration was Islamic or Zoroastrian, but I do recall that one of the foods was topped with plain yogurt, which was at once both exciting and repulsive to my developing palate.
In elementary school and junior high there was a boy who wore “girl’s” clothes. His mannerisms were effeminate. Sometimes a bully would bloody his nose after school. Later, a group of us made it clear that if the bullies had a problem with him, they had a problem with us. We weren’t even his friends, in the classical sense. But we did have a sense of right and wrong that had developed after we had been given the ability to think, reason, and question the world around us.
Being exposed to ideas that differ from our own is not like being exposed to some kind of pernicious pathogen. Going into the autumn years of life, I am not a Christian, a Jew, or Muslim, despite having been exposed to those lifestyles in the public schools. I have been in a committed, loving traditional relationship for many years, despite having been exposed to other lifestyle choices throughout my life. I feel confident in standing up for my own rights, as well as for the rights of others. I believe books and ideas are things to be pondered, relished, and celebrated, because the light of reason is the only thing that can banish the darkness of ignorance and hate.
Climate change is an existential threat to our species. If humanity is to stand a chance for survival, we must cease wasting precious time and energy bickering over individual political, religious, and lifestyle choices, and instead focus on providing the next generation with public schools that provide the intellectual tools necessary to come together and solve the only problem that matters right now.