It has been 65 years since I was graduated from high school and, my, how some things have changed.
I am especially aware of those changes this year since our youngest six grandchildren will all be attending the same school — a combined junior-senior high school in central Kansas. There will be one Hays in the 11th grade, four in ninth and the last, in seventh. The nightmare of transporting to different schools in different towns is finally over unless we include the fact that their mom teaches elsewhere.
Statisticians claim that one in four Americans is involved in our education system as an employee or student. That is a lot of people, and those numbers underscore the importance we as taxpayers should be giving to our schools. How many of us, I wonder, know the mission statements of our local school system? How many of us have been involved enough to have helped develop those statements? Look them up, folks, and see what you think. Are our schools concentrating on the areas you consider most important?
Those changing areas comprise some of the biggest changes in education since my day. Back then, people thought it important to have a common knowledge base. So, as a country of immigrants, we all learned the same nursery rhymes, read the same stories and gave the same book reports.
Reading and writing outdid arithmetic at my school and they were also the areas stressed in college. Science was almost an afterthought. Now, STEM classes predominate, as we have learned the importance of science, technology, engineering and math. Literacy in technology has moved to the top of the goals list.
Our technology consisted of compasses and protractors and, by the time our boys were in school, slide rules. Look at the changes now. We learned a lot by memorization and rote recitation, methods now bypassed except maybe for times tables. We carried dictionaries. Now students use the internet to define words and spell correctly. We wrote with pencil and paper. Now most classwork is done online. Another major change these days is the opportunity to take advanced placement classes that count as both high school and college credits. Wish we had that option back in the “old days.”
There are many more changes than just those in the classroom, though. The activities available to students have increased to the extent that they can seem to overshadow academics. Just last week, our six were involved in band camp and marching practice, student council retreat, cheerleader practice, sports physicals and tryouts for choir, quiz bowl, debate and forensics.
Transportation to and from all of those was challenging not only because some were scheduled at the same times, but in different locations. The start of actual classes may provide some relief.
We ask a lot of our students, teachers and administrators. I am always pleased to see people and organizations supporting them. That support needs to continue throughout the school year so let’s agree to compliment those who do well and to encourage those who struggle. We want to be proud of our schools, and it would be nice if they could take pride in their supportive communities as well.