Community Voice: A letter to FCPS Superintendent and Board members

CAPAFC: Alice, a concerned Fairfax county parent, emphasized the importance of work ethic as a core value holding the nation and society together in her recent letter to FCPS Superintendent and board members. With Alice’s agreement, the full text of her letter is copied below.

Dear FCPS Superintendent and Board,

One Fairfax Policy: “The commitment to promote fairness and justice in the formation of public policy that results in all residents – regardless of age, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, marital status, disability, socio-economic status or neighborhood of residence or other characteristics…”

Reading from your beautifully worded One Fairfax Policy, I couldn’t tell whether my children will be penalized for the very core value ingrained in them since birth, work ethic: one common factor that our community has been holding on tightly and proudly for thousands of years.

Over 20 years ago, I landed on this Land of Opportunities with two suitcases of American Dreams.  It didn’t matter that I had no family in this country.  It didn’t matter that I would always speak with an accent.  It didn’t matter that I had to work three jobs to complete my graduate school.  I believed, as all aspiring immigrants believed, that America was a place where your dreams come true if you were willing to work hard, really hard!

Now I have two young children to raise and guide.  I told them how I left family and friends behind, and how I crossed the land and ocean to pursue the inspiring American Dream. I told them how, on the first night and in my America dorm, I cooked and ate ramen noodles with two tooth brushes (since I had no utensils).  I told them how I cherished the rich resources at the libraries, devouring books after books.  I told them how my car was always the last lonely car in the dark parking lot outside the school computer lab for over 1,000 nights…

Not to mention how many sleepless nights when I was learning 20,000 English words.  Not to mention the 8,000 accounting, tax, law, auditing multiple choices I studied in order to pass the CPA exam.  Not to mention thousands of “no’s” I said to the invitations to parties, movies and entertaining activities…Not to mention the soul-piercing homesickness and loneliness…Not to mention the 15-hour work day for a decade…

As all aspiring and loving parent desires, I also desire to prepare my children for a brighter future: one with an immense work ethic.  I told them whenever there was a lot of horse-crap piling up in my life, mommy didn’t stop and indulge in a pity party or complain about how unfair life was; mommy always looked up with cheerful and anticipating eyes, and said, “There must be a pony somewhere!”  Hard I worked, looking for that pony!

I ask my children since they were toddlers: “What do we do every day?”  They tell me proudly every night before sleep: “Mommy, I work hard, have fun and do impossible things!”

Work ethic is work ethic.  My 4-year-old says, “Mommy, there is no shortcut”.  My 10-year-old says: “Life is never fair; however, hard work pays off”.

Work ethic transcends age, race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin, marital status, disability, socio-economic status… Did you include that in your policy?  Why can’t we include that in the policy?  Why don’t we include in the policy something that can truly and permanently transform a child for a better and happier life: the kind of life they have worked hard to earn?  Why can’t we include an overarching policy that teaches our future generation the truth that human can only experience intrinsic, meaningful and lasting happiness after enduring a grueling journey of human becoming: you become a person you are inspired by through blood, sweats and tears of hard work?  There is no shortcut or magic pill of happiness!  You earn your stripes and you fall in love with who you become!

Now, as a deeply concerned parent, an involved citizen, and now a very very reluctant property taxpayer, I feel that One Fairfax policy begins to beg me for an array of disturbing questions: When my 10-year-old works hard and gets into the Advanced Academic Program, is that a crime to be penalized?  When hardworking children are willing to practice violin, viola or cello an hour a day, does the color of their skin really matter in order to apply for an advanced orchestra?  Is that also a crime to be penalized?  When any child works extremely hard and sacrifices at their tender years to qualify for the admission to one of the nation’s best ranking Thomas Jefferson High School, should they be rejected because the school might implement a race-based quota system?  Is their work ethic and sacrifice also a crime to be penalized?

I asked my children these questions.  Fortunately, they still possess a common sense that is quite uncommon nowadays.  They gave me a resounding ‘NO’ to each of these questions.  I asked my children if there is a possibility that work ethic and merit will not be the universal measuring stick, but some perceived injustice or race or color or sex or sexual identity…should their mommy fight against that injustice on their behalf.  They gave me a resounding “YES”!

2,500 years ago, one of the most influential historical educators, Confucius, said simply: “Truth resided in one’s core values!”

If you could put aside your lens of age, race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin, marital status, disability, socio-economic status… all of which are just various outer expressions of our common inner world, and focus one core values, what would your answers be?  We are all equal before God, before the law, and I want to add one more: we are all equal before work ethic!  When we can instill work ethic in every FCPS student, we will see more happy and high-achieving children who cherish the value of earning an honor, not the value of a debilitating victimhood mentality.  Every hardworking human being has all been victimized at one time or another!  We just didn’t stop there at the pile of crap.  We got up, dusted off and searching hard for the “pony”!

We can’t prepare our children for everything in life.  But we can prepare them with a set of core values that are underlying, constant, and timeless. The core value and the fabric that has bonded our community and our culture is work ethic.  We feel strongly discriminated when we are penalized for our work ethic.  We feel the painful racial injustice when our hardworking and sacrificing children are penalized for their work ethic.  We feel our core is mercilessly torn apart and trampled upon when we have to pay the double prices: one for the hardworking sacrifice and the other for the punishment as a result of our desire for excellence.

As educators of our future generations, your priority is to instill in the students the underlying, constant and timeless core values, not a swinging political agenda, nor a temporary feel-good agenda.  If you really have the courage and vision to make a meaningful change in the lives of all students and all communities, you will issue policies that could help change their cultural and beliefs about work ethics, about education, about self-governing, about sacrifice, about earning one’s honor, about having a vision of doing good instead of feeling good; not any Band-Aid program that is seemingly helping them but leaving them only feel good temporarily.  However, in the long-run, their truth still resides in their core value.  I searched long and hard in your policy for words such as “work ethic”, “hard-working” and “working hard”.  One Fairfax Policy returned a mind-numbing blank stare at me.  As an hardworking immigrant who came to this country with bare hands, lofty ideals and an unshakable belief in work ethic to make my American Dream come true, I am deeply troubled: our children, your students will never truly feel good about who they are, and “reach their highest level of personal achievement” unless they are willing to embrace “work ethic”.  Period!!!

As another inspiring FCPS mother said to me, “How foolish it is to think we can just pull an apple from one tree and string it on another tree and assume it will grow beautifully without having years of benefitting from healthy roots and environment!”

Dear Superintendent and School Board Members, please ask yourself: Do you intend your One Fairfax Policy to grow the root for our future generations or simply pluck the fruit from one tree and string them on another tree?  I know that you would not do that for the apple trees in your garden.  Why on earth are we doing it to the tender seedlings in the FCPS garden of our precious future generation?

You are the leaders of our FCPS community.  What you can see dictates and leads what the FCPS families can see.  When your policy can’t pinpoint to the root cause, but only address the symptoms of the root cause, can you blame us for our lack of trust and faith in your vision and leadership?  Can you blame us for being reluctant property taxpayers to provide the funding to an education system that does not honor the very core of human excellence: work ethic?

In a confusing world such as today’s, something needs to remain constant and absolute.  That constant and absolute anchor for me, for my family and for our community is: work ethic!  It’s my sincere hope that you, as the leaders of our education system, possess the wisdom and awareness that our children still need to look up to hard-working and high-performing examples of excellence.  Work ethic is not a crime to be penalized.  Work ethic is still and will always be an inspiring lighthouse in the stormy sea of life!  It’s my sincere plea that I can still tell my children: America is a place where your dreams come true if you are willing to work hard, really hard!

I request that FCPS board add language to the new One Fairfax Policy that explicitly “prohibits the new policy to install quotas and similar type programs that may harm or impact others,” and “prohibits the new policy from lessening the standards of discipline at the risk of discriminating or harming others”.

Unfair penalizing of High Achievers and Hard Working Students should not be allowed!

Please feel free to contact me at

Sincerely yours,

Concerned FCPS Parent/Taxpayer, Alice Guo