The real issues in our schools

By Jack “Alex” White III, columnist ~ “Small towns, big potential”

Our elementary schools are falling apart, the school system is chronically underfunded, and personnel shortages have become a fact of life as remaining teachers and staff learn to survive underpaid (and underappreciated). Many even have to buy their own classroom supplies.

In an ideal world, parents would team up with teachers to advocate on those issues through letters, emails, speeches, organizing, and attending local meetings. Instead, the most important things seem to fall by the wayside in favor of performative fights with little real substance.

This is usually what happens in national politics, where you are more likely to hear a fiery debate about a tweet, choice of words, or the latest “he said, she said” than anything of import (like, for example, the decline of the middle class, overly powerful corporations, or housing affordability).

In the last few years, I am afraid that these distractions have made it to the local level. Even as our local population stagnates, rural newspapers falter, and local government becomes less effective, it feels like we only care about those issues which simply serve to “piss us off.”

Our school system is the perfect example. I see good people on all sides emphasizing everything BUT the fact that our schools are underfunded and falling into a state of disrepair.

Just imagine if we saw as many posts about budget shortfalls and crumbling buildings as those parroting cable news talking points (which are essentially designed to make our “blood boil”). 

What if we actually followed the other two dozen school board meetings that are held every year instead of just the one or two meetings that make us mad? What if we decided to put as much energy into fighting FOR our schools as we do fighting the “culture war” in them? 

What if we chose to get angry TOGETHER instead of getting angry at EACH OTHER?

It takes very little to be bitter at the world around us. It takes hard work to make it better.

Jack “Alex” White III is the Executive Director of the Rural Leadership Initiative and the District 1 Representative on the Page County Economic Development Authority — where he was reported to have been “Virginia’s youngest government official” at the time of his appointment.

Alex is a lifelong native of Page County, a graduate of Luray High School

and is currently enrolled at Harvard University.



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  1. You should complain about the people in the leadership positions responsible for all the things you’re blaming everybody else for.

    • Mr. Sanford,

      Change starts with citizens being vocal. We know that local leaders respond (or are replaced) when folks make their voices heard (masking and solar are recent examples). I am suggesting that we can all bring that energy to these issues!

      And thank you for your comments! Each helps to promote the article’s message by improving its engagement and SEO!

      • Please point out who the leaders are that are underperforming, or not listening, and how they can improve. Nebulous, theoretical complaints aren’t helpful no matter how far they are broadcast.

        • The county board of supervisors. But it is hardly nebulous to name the mechanism through which we can force them to do better: people getting pissed off and speaking up. That is the goal of the column.

          If you don’t think that citizen pressure is needed to make those officials do better, then you have more faith in the government than I do.

  2. And then there’s the School Board. Have you thought that they are doing the best they can with what they have? That there are things standing in the way of them realizing your golden Harvard ideal?
    So you recommend using force.

    • They are doing their best, the point is that they need more support – you’re beginning to understand the article! (Not sure where “force” or “Harvard” comes in… I could write several articles on Harvard’s problems!)

      Thank you for the comments, they help the article appear in more people’s feeds while also keeping me accountable!

      • Mr. White’s article and points are important and sound. They will fall on deaf ears and be lost on chronic naysayers who have been drinking from the poison stream but that doesn’t diminish the value of his argument for our community. I’m grateful for his contribution.

  3. Since you’ve admitted the applicable leaders (School Board and Board of Supervisors) are doing the best they can, then let’s increase “citizen pressure” with a nice tax increase. How about that? Try to ignore historic Biden inflation and illegal immigrants getting free stuff.

  4. Very well-written article. It is nice to hear someone point out the senseless and detrimental bickering that goes on in lieu of having real conversations to promote the betterment of our community. I do believe that most people feel they cannot change anything “big”, so that is why ppl fight the “little” things. However, the author has given a good reminder to stay focused on the real topics rather than on cutting on each other.

  5. It’s a shame public schools have a monopoly. A voucher system that allowed parents who can afford private schools to put their children into alternative education. Parents know best what’s for their children and if public schools were forced to compete with private schools we would see real and positive changes.

    • Mr. Nesbitt. Deep in this article, it backs up what you claim to be true about competition between the two systems. The difference is small though. Possibly that’s due to more parent involvement in the case of vouchers, and teachers in public schools feeling the heat. Pressuring the government is useless. All you get is more government.
      So I’m coming down on teachers and parents as having the most impact on achievement scores. Not government “authorities”, and not buildings and grounds and teacher pay.
      I inject here the BLM goal of abolishing the “western style family unit”.

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