In a rare moment of deep introspection, I reflected upon this collection of words, columns, thoughts and plead for positive action. I contemplated my audience(s) and knew I was attempting to preach to a choir across that deep canyon between contemporaries and groups coming up behind us. That, friends, is a difficult grouping and I may not be that good. I am trying to make good emerge.
Each column contains about 800 words. Some are multisyllabic so as to use one that includes, perhaps, a more comprehensive definition. Younger readers may not recognize the elongated words while many old-timers believe it should be made simpler. My chief advisor says, “Keep on with what you been doing; you ain’t been lynched – yet.”
A most recent column on education represented an attempt at bringing my several past decades into focus. With some ego, I knew that I had been there, trod those paths, and believed I could cross that line between what has past and ease gently across bumps and paths leading to here and now. With these attempts to advise a vast audience to work more effectively with those behind them; especially “greats” and “great-grands.” As I was re-reading and editing, I came to a screeching, shuddering halt.
History indicates that we have tinkered with education since early days of a one-room schoolhouse with a poorly educated teacher attempting to impart knowledge to a few runny-nosed kids. In this century, we have participated in the mushrooming growth of continuing education beyond home and hearth. We knew learning leads to success. Universities, real school houses, learned scholars sharing and handing down knowledge and wisdom; all shared an accumulated knowledge of centuries past. Knowledge and wisdom were goals with increased thought and reasoning for an individual. It seems there were few law schools, no trade schools; no colleges of education, few if any business schools, indeed few specialized departments. Seemingly, with knowledge and education accumulated from centuries past, an individual was expected to explore and grow in areas of interest.
Today, we have a mixed bag of education opportunities. Public school systems have seemingly shifted efforts from imparting knowledge and learning to the gentle art of acquiring keyboard and computer operating skills. My grandkids can give me technical assistance but couldn’t create or understand an accounting program or a business system application. It appears these manual skills accompany young students to institutions of higher learning. Bill Gates of Microsoft renown recognized a real need for a program/system, applied knowledge, worked hard and long to help create a software package. History does not record his keyboard skills. His knowledge foundation paved into the future. Present education status affords us the same opportunity for future successes. Along this path, we have gone from a little one-room school with horses tethered outside to monolithic campuses overshadowed by gigantic athletic stadiums. Courses have shifted from basic learning to an amalgamation of highly specialized offerings. It is noted many advances caused the creation of new programs. Of course, this requires additional expensive faculty badly needed for programs leading to a master’s degree or a PhD. This expansion comes from within and must go/grow outwards.
It appears their foundation is suffering from a lingering virus that threatens our educational environment. Public schools which feed the universities are deep into a floundering malaise; creating whirlpools and deadly spills.
With this developing situation, local, state and national politicos managed to jump on a bandwagon and pour money into a system floating in backwater. That flow of funding influenced and supported a need for new and better facilities. Along the way, free breakfasts let parents cook less allowing kids to trash federally funded nourishment for tasty and appealing junk food. Along the way, special interests endeavored to lower standards, subvert knowledge in the classroom, and decrease most basic needs. This wonderful structure, is totally built on sands that would/could wash out with an incoming high tide.
Friends, what follows is highly biased opinion. However, the past has not produced and even my suggestions will take more years. Current problems, there are many, are parents ignoring a continuing downturn. Preceding programs have overlooked the simple fact that politicos, learned experts, money, ignored long range welfare of incoming students and graduates. Good grief!
History supports my radical theory. From one-room school to the monoliths spread over acres of land, the expansions and growth has been upward for success; not always progress. Today, seeming approach is to pour resources in the top and grow downward. Ain’t gonna work, guys. Success builds up --- always upward. Without the foundation, you got nothing. Today’s beginnings are parents and children.
Unless parents instill or teach right and wrong, morals, truth and manners, the educational system will topple to the depths of despair.
Grady Easley is a Huntsville resident and weekly columnist for The Huntsville Item.