I read with amusement Cliff McCollum’s collectivist musings about employees of the Opelika School System who, according to McCollum, “choose to send their children to some local private schools.” Mr. McCollum’s assertion seems to be that these parents are disloyal in both word and deed and are undermining not only the Opelika School System but our entire community.

Mr. McCollum does not reveal the number of employees who have chosen alternative education for their children, but the implication is that even a few are too many, and these few are not to be tolerated. His solution is to “change the rules.” One assumes that he means to change the rules so that they reflect his personal preferences regarding how to deal with the rogue employees who disagree with his point of view. in his angst, McCollum is quick to assure readers that he is in favor of both freedom of choice and diversity of thought and opinion. His argument suggests that he is a proponent of neither.

McCollum’s support for freedom of choice apparently depends on how closely my choice and yours mirrors his preferences. As for diversity of thought and opinion, McCollum considers it an essential practice for students in the local public school classroom, but finds it unacceptable when exercised by employees of the local school system.

Mr. McCollum does not seem to grasp the concept that the practice of true diversity of thought and opinion flourishes only when freedom of expression is encouraged rather than punished and is protected from the intolerant among us. Engaging in what can only be characterized as selective support of diversity is both hypocritical and illogical. Mr. McCollum destroys his own argument.

In addition, Mr. McCollum has overlooked the fact that those parents who choose independent or Christian school instead of public school pay twice for their children’s education. They pay tuition and are also heavily taxed by the federal, state and local government to support the public school system. I would think that McCollum would find at least some solace in the fact that those who don’t share his exuberance for what he describes as the “awesomeness” (is that really a word?) of Opelika High School pay a high price for that choice. In short, these parents have to put their money where their mouths are.

Mr. McCollum would do well to consider why some parents are willing to make the financial sacrifice that comes with sending children to independent or Christian schools. No doubt the reasons are myriad, but perhaps included is the hope that their own children will graduate from high school with a better understanding of the high ideals of individual liberty and civility than those expressed by Mr. McCollum in the Observer.

Mr. McCollum confessed that he unburdened himself from his self-acclaimed “mantle of journalist” before expressing what can only be described as intolerant and bigoted opinions about Christian and independent school and those who support them. I hope that before Mr. McCollum repositions his journalistic cloak, his colleagues at the Opelika Observer, several of whom are older and wiser than he, will encourage him to read what history teaches about those who advocate punitive action against their fellow citizens whose choices and diversity of opinion and thought conflict with their own.

One of the objectives of education, both public and private, should be to provide the sutdent some insight into the extent of his own ignorance. Perhaps in time, Mr. McCollum will open his mind and come to understand that he still has a great deal to learn.


Mrs. Ione Mayfield

Opelika, Ala