Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara Superintendent of Schools

For more than 90 years, the Free and Accepted Masons of California have been sponsoring Public Schools Month in April. This year’s theme is “Together we make a profound difference for public education.”

The purpose is to encourage communities to set aside a special time to discuss public schools. Ever since 1920, the goal of the Masons in promoting this month has been to enlist the support of the general public in the cause of public education.

Many Americans are astonished to learn that the American public schools system is still considered the world’s best, despite a host of financial and social problems.

Frosty Troy, journalist and media commentator, argued that “America is bombarded by exaggerated, distorted, or just plain false reporting and propaganda when it comes to public education.”

He pointed out that “More than five million public school students are dirt poor. Nearly two million are latchkey children. More than half a million attend from penal institutions. Another million are drug or alcohol disabled…One in two students come from a single parent home, one in three is a minority, one in four is poor, one in eight is physically or emotionally handicapped, one in 12 speaks little or no English.”

And yet we focus on test scores and want everyone to be above average, he says.

He ended one article by admonishing that when it comes to public education, “Pride and militant opposition to critics is obligatory” because so much is at stake. We must support our schools and our students and do all we can to help, he wrote.

That’s exactly where the Masons and Public Schools Month enters the picture. It is the perfect opportunity for members of the community to see first hand what goes on in local classrooms, and let them draw their own conclusions.

So take a few minutes and visit a local school this month. If it’s been a while since your last visit, you’ll be amazed by the breadth, the depth, and the vitality of what you see.