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Trip to Cracker Barrel Was More Important Than School

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Dear Madam Principal,

I am in receipt of your sternly worded letter informing me that my children's recent family day-trip will not constitute an excused absence from school. I'm writing to express my shock and outrage that your policy will effectively penalize my children for immersing themselves in an authentic, hands-on experience that is roughly 80 times more effective at teaching them about this great country of ours than any lesson taught in the classroom.

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During the three-point-five hours they spent at the Cracker Barrel in Gurnee, Illinois, last Monday, my children had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that could not possibly be replicated in any classroom, much less a public classroom that consists of nothing more than filling in bubbles on one standardized test after another.

While we waited for a table, we perused the Cracker Barrel gift shop area, and my children learned about the arts by looking at (but not touching) bedazzled cozy sweaters and blown-glass peacock serving platters. They admired oil paintings depicting wild flowers reaching toward the sun's light and hand-stitched aprons with ladybugs appliqued on the straps. Nowhere in school can my children experience the majesty of a 4-foot, light-up "USA"sign or baseball jerseys emblazoned with the slogan, "We the People."

But this was no ordinary trip. Even from my brief description, you can see that our family excursion brought my children face-to-face with American history, culinary arts, folk art, civic pride, the obesity epidemic and patriotism.

In addition to the fine arts, my children thumbed through a selection of gospel CDs from the likes of American heroes, Ralph Stanley and Mavis Staples. They also visited a wall display featuring seven different iterations of cast iron cornbread pans for over 10 minutes. They flipped through cookbooks instructing how to make the perfect Cracker Barrel biscuit at home, and they cannot even read!

All that was before we even sat down to our meal.

As for the food, my children sampled four kinds of breakfast meats (ham, sausage, bacon and whatever meat is in hash) and eight different starches (toast, pancakes, biscuits, grits, plain rolls, hash browns, bagel and waffles). These are foods that the school cafeteria WILL serve them eventually, so actually, this excursion put them ahead of the curve. Now you have two more students who have seen the future. You're welcome.

The learning did not stop when the dishes were cleared and our bellies were full. In many ways that was just the beginning. To aid digestion, the children sampled the hand-constructed rocking chairs lined up on Cracker Barrel's "front porch." It was a design lesson that immersed them in simplicity and whimsy. When they tired of rocking back and forth, they opted to play checkers on the board that was set up between two of their chairs, thereby strengthening their strategic thinking skills and sportsmanship.

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I understand from your letter that "the school district does not recognize family trips as excused absences, regardless of the activities involved in the trip." But this was no ordinary trip. Even from my brief description, you can see that our family excursion brought my children face-to-face with American history, culinary arts, folk art, civic pride, the obesity epidemic and patriotism. That you would not make an exception helps me understand why the state of American education is the laughing stock of the rest of the world.

Please consider making an exception for the above-described trip and excuse my children's absence from school last Monday.

Sincerely,

Christie O. Tate

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