Alliance for the Separation of School & State
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The Education Liberator, Vol. 2, No. 5, June 1996

Proclaimer Profile

Each month, we will profile individuals who have signed the Proclamation for the Separation of School & State.

"We're robbing the taxpayers for this?"

Gertude Zvonar began teaching high school chemistry and physics, in Baltimore, in the 1950s. As years went by, she saw a disturbing trend. "What I could teach of these subjects began to dwindle. It got to where people could only learn certain chapters instead of all of them. Then they couldn't understand the math problems. I appealed to the principal to let me teach math. But even the math began dwindling. Every year, it seemed like there was a chapter less and a chapter less."

Other things bothered her, too. Vandalism. Students skipping school en masse. Tardiness that became a joke ? and an excuse for partying in the halls. The decline of extracurricular activities.

"We used to have a club for practically everything. A fencing club, a club for every language, every kind of service organization. Today, there's a bare skeleton, even though the teachers are paid for this now. The teachers don't want to stay an extra two minutes."

Mrs. Zvonar was also aghast at the waste. "In the math department we had to think of ways to spend money. We bought film strips, most of which we never used. New math was coming in, so we had all kinds of games, and sets, and dice to roll...and meanwhile, kids were losing or deliberately mutilating their textbooks. By the 1970s and '80s, 'Senior Day' had become horrible ? they would throw their books in the trash cans or just rip them up. When I saw that, I said, 'We're robbing the people of their tax money to do this?'"

Since retiring in 1985, the Jarrettsville, Maryland, resident has devoted much of her time to studying politics and education. A book of hers about politics in the nation's capital, House for Sale, was published by Halcyon House. She is now working on publishing a book about education.

She has also become one of the most outspoken of the Separation Alliance's School Sakharovs.* "Certain things attracted me to this organization," she explains. "One of the main ones is the diversity idea. If people all go their own way, I have no doubt that the children will still learn their ABCs and 123s. I think everybody is going to teach the basics, whatever else they teach. Also, I like the idea of letting parents spend their money how they want. It seems to me that it is the family that primarily has the children's interests at heart."

* Andrei Sakharov won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975. From his position of eminence within the Soviet Union, Sakharov courageously denounced the failures of communism within his own country. School Sakharovs are educators who have worked within our educational system, have witnessed its failures first hand, and are willing to speak out (see "The Cement Canoe" Sept. '95).

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