Editorials ~ Sonoma Valley Sun

Sonoma Valley Sun


Getting back to school

Posted on August 15, 2023 by Sonoma Valley Sun

It’s back to school, and we’re wondering what the new school year will bring. The disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic still reverberate; teacher departures, district leadership changes,  student behavioral issues, and a learning deficit all loom large in what’s to come.

We were heartened to see that dozens of new teachers joined our schools this year, and that despite the many serious issues affecting the district, including the high cost of housing, these vital positions were filled. We’re also pleased that new initiatives have paid off, such as the completion of the fabulous swimming facility at the high school. 

Hopes are running high that the new District Superintendent will be able to set a course of collaborative, cooperative work with the board.

This brings us to the students, the reason for  all this effort and spending. In today’s world, what will it take to inspire our students to embrace the value of education and make it central to their lives? 

The world has changed, and not just because of the pandemic. What once was a “youth culture” where ensuring our children were safe and well educated, and were taught the lessons of history and encouraged to value and participate in citizenship, has mostly disappeared, replaced with cultural issues of equity, aging, safety, and social media. 

Technology, once seen as a boost to education, is relentlessly replacing it with its own agenda, including its commercial interests. Education, which was once seen as a refuge from the world of materialism, is now falling behind influencers, social media platforms,  invasive information-collecting programs, the allure and threat of A.I., even online gaming. It’s not easy for any teacher, no matter how talented, to compete with all that.

We’re worried about student mental health. Depression, anxiety, and anger have all increased, and the recent vandalism of “fugitive night” in Sonoma provided stark evidence of it. Schools across America, not just here in Sonoma, are seeing increased behavioral problems with students and struggling to cope with it. 

Mental health counselors have been added, and that’s a positive step, but the underlying causes are so complex and various that the problem requires a great deal more attention and funding. Everyone – teachers, administrators, and parents – need to get involved. If students are not emotionally capable of learning, then all the efforts and budgets dedicated to curriculum development, facility improvement, and creative teaching is doomed to failure.

It’s worth considering the purpose of public education. Is it about attaining personal achievement, or the betterment of society? Like so much else about contemporary life, public education has become “all about me,” too focused on establishing a career path and making money instead of fostering an ethic of building community and a good society. Having to compete with Instagram and TikTok for student attention, our schools struggle with relevance to ordinary life. The answer, we suggest, is not to resort to forms of entertainment or the increased use of technology, but rather to build critical thinking skills.

Our children’s future looks challenging; climate change, radical politics, matters of identity, and potentially severe outbreaks of disease all threaten. Unless our young generation is well-educated and capable of coping with the future, civilization as we know it may not last. 


Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA