CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I am glad to see the Legislature sidle up to the state's second most spectacular failure - public education. (It's related to the first most spectacular, which is poverty.)
Good people are working hard to cut through a thicket of state regulations to make it easier for schools to help children.
But let's not kid ourselves. Victory over overregulation will not be enough to help teachers win on the front lines every day.
They need more than just the freedom to spend more time teaching. They need an orderly environment in which to teach.
Nobody's talking about that.
Too many of our students do not see public education as the tremendous opportunity it is.
Would they see it differently if they were denied it?
I think so.
Years ago, I became good friends with an elderly neighbor whose father lost everything in the Depression. As a result, she lost her chance at college.
She became a great success anyway. She had nothing to apologize for.
But 70 years after she lost the chance at more education, the sting of the loss was still fresh. It showed when she spoke of it.
As a reporter, I met countless people like that. They craved education, would have given anything for it, and did not get as much as they wanted.
Driven to learn, they achieved greatly nonetheless.
But society has changed. It's as if Great Society guarantees of opportunity have unintentionally produced in some families a disinterest in taking advantage of it.
Many West Virginia school boards, principals, teachers and circuit judges deal with kids who have the opportunities their great-grandparents were denied, but who turn them down.
Society provides a free breakfast and lunch and after-school snack, plus a backpack of food for weekends and free summer feeding programs.
But we haven't created, in some children, the hunger for education that their grandparents and great-grandparents had.
How do we fix that?
Responsible adults all over West Virginia are trying to figure that out.
Community leaders are astonished to learn how many kids are tardy - sometimes by hours. Circuit judges complain of an "epidemic" of truancy.
The state Supreme Court is working with schools and courts to hold parents accountable for school attendance, even threatening loss of parental rights.
I don't think it will work.
The entitlement mentality has obscured the appreciation of opportunity.