Young aspiring wizards in Harry Potter would run headlong into a brick façade at the secret London train “Platform 9¾” to reach their school of wizardry.
Today and in weeks to follow, area students will run into schools we’ve built for them brick by brick, at considerable cost.
Either way, it’s magic.
Particularly in low-income neighborhoods, where depressed, decrepit properties can sag for miles – incongruously alongside well-loved homes doggedly maintained as oases in a desert of financial despair – schools stand apart.
Especially new schools, like Augusta’s Murphey Middle, which awed and delighted parents and students at an open house last week before today’s first day of school.
All schools are their own Platform 9¾, capable of transporting students from their everyday earthly surroundings to unimagined worlds of wizardry and magic known simply as learning.
They are, if you believe hard enough, portals to the sorcery of the mind.
Inside schools, adult wizards known by muggles as “teachers” await to guide the wide-eyed wizards-in-waiting to what they may become – leaving behind what they already are, or what society may foolishly expect them to amount to.
“Back to school” has such a dreary ring to it. Like “back to work.” Or “back to the drawing board.” All of which conjure up drudgery, and notions of having gotten nowhere, or perhaps going back in time.
Why cloak such an amazing, hopeful time, such a noble, exhilarating pursuit, in such drab cloth? More properly, this is “back to the future.” Teaching, learning, growing to more than we can be – this is pure magic, after all.
This is especially true in those disadvantaged areas where a school – particularly a brand new one – stands as tangible proof that there is more, that not everything stays the same, that with hard work and an inquisitive mind you can not only be transported but can, in turn, transmute the places around you, as surely as with a wand, if not as swiftly.
Our children need to know all this. Just as importantly, they need to see it. They need to fathom that what goes on inside these buildings is special. So special that the adults around them taxed themselves to build them.
Our young need to know that education is transformative – not just for them, but for their surroundings.
In turn, then, it is Augusta’s solemn obligation not just to build such schools and turn the lights on and throw the doors open – but also, especially in areas of blight, to provide real hope that things do, indeed, change. That the cyber revolution taking hold in Augusta will reverberate all the way out to their inheritance of neglect. The occasional flood of poorly draining streets must become a rising tide that lifts their boats too – as our system of freedom, opportunity and self-reliance has always promised.
In the Harry Potter stories, young wizards running toward Platform 9¾ might’ve simply run into a brick wall if they didn’t believe in its ability to transport them.
The same is true for our children running into school today.