SEVERAL READERS HAVE INQUIRED ABOUT WHAT happened to the two boys my wife Susan wrote about in WORLD on Dec. 15, 2001. They lived with us for six months that year after their mom began drinking again, and Susan's pre-Christmas column was designed to tell a story about contemporary American culture and also to see if any of our readers would have permanent room at their inns for these children.
Well, WORLD subscribers showed again why they are the best in America. We received many responses from all over the country, and the two boys are now living with adoptive parents chosen from among the respondents. The boys are progressing well in school, attending church and a children's Bible club, enjoying their new dog, cats, and goldfish, and being read to at night.
That's been an encouraging story in itself, but another is unfolding. Hundreds like this new story are developing around the country, but I'll write of this one because I've seen it with my own eyes-and it starts with the two boys. Several people in our church, seeing how the boys' needs were not being met in an Austin public school and would probably not be met at Christian schools with high-achieving kids from stable backgrounds, determined to start a new school. Other volunteers caught the vision.
The result is City School, a new K-8 academy that opened its doors four months ago with 32 students and plans this coming fall to double in size. The goal is to keep growing with children from both rich and poor areas and from a variety of racial and ethnic groups, with an emphasis on discerning the distinct gifts and inclinations of each child.
City School is intentionally located one block away from Interstate Highway 35, the border between east and west Austin that's also somewhat of a racial and economic divide. Instead of bowing to one particular methodology, teachers are learning to fit their efforts to the learning needs of various students. Lots of problems remain; for example, over the next couple of months we have to recruit a permanent headmaster, and finding someone committed to theological order but knowledgeable about sociological disorder may not be easy.
Nevertheless, City School's overall story is an encouraging one for those thinking of similar startups-and, I stress again, it's one of many. The professor who picked me up at the airport when I flew into Chicago to speak at a college was soon telling me about a similar school that takes up much of his volunteer time. Over the years we've tried to highlight many such compassionate conservative activities in WORLD, because in the absence of such accounts lots of ardent people tend to feel they're all alone.
I like a Texas story about a man who drove his car into a ditch in a desolate area. A local rancher came to help with his big strong horse named Buddy. He hitched Buddy up to the car and yelled, "Pull, Nellie, pull!" Buddy didn't move. Then the rancher hollered, "Pull, Buster, pull!" Buddy didn't respond. Once more the rancher commanded, "Pull, Pokey, pull!" Nothing. Then the rancher nonchalantly said, "Pull, Buddy, pull!" The horse easily dragged the car out of the ditch. The motorist was thankful-and curious. He asked the rancher why he called his horse by the wrong name three times. The rancher said, "Oh, Buddy is blind and if he thought he was the only one pulling, he wouldn't even try!"
Here's what readers should know: Lots of people now are pulling. The number of private and religious schools challenging public-school monopolies continues to grow. Some are for affluent students. Some are inner-city schools. And some try to bring together rich and poor. We're likely to see more of all kinds, whether or not legislatures and courts do the right thing and make parents, not government and teachers unions, once again the central figures in education.
The same goes for compassionate conservatism generally. It's great that President Bush is emphasizing the importance of faith-based groups. We'll continue to watch whether his administration in practice follows his words. But regardless of what happens in Washington, many people are moved by direct experience with children such as the two we and others were privileged to help for a season. A goodly number act. In God's providence, the problems of two boys have now led to opportunities for many more.