Maybe the prob­lem isn’t the pub­lic school sys­tem. Maybe it is our so­ci­ety

Calhoun Times - - FRONT PAGE - Dick Yar­brough

I am try­ing to re­mem­ber when our pub­lic school sys­tem be­came an in­fe­rior way to learn to read, write and ci­pher. Maybe pub­lic schools have al­ways been low-grade, but I must have missed the cue be­cause I got a pretty good ed­u­ca­tion.

I guess the blame be­longs to my momma and daddy. They gen­er­ally con­sid­ered school­teach­ers in the same lofty strato­sphere with the preacher and the doc­tor. They didn’t ques­tion the word of any of the three. Un­aware of my con­sti­tu­tional rights, if I got in trou­ble at school, they pre­sumed I was guilty un­til proven in­no­cent. In their minds, the teacher was right. It didn’t help that this was usu­ally the case.

My par­ents grew up in a time and place in Ge­or­gia where ed­u­ca­tion was not val­ued. Nei­ther got be­yond the sev­enth grade. As a re­sult, both my brother and I were ex­pected to at least fin­ish high school. Get­ting our re­spec­tive col­lege de­grees was ic­ing on the cake for them.

I cher­ish the mem­ory of my par­ents, but they were never my “pals” and I don’t re­call them ever call­ing for a vote on how they chose to run the house. There wasn’t a lot of democ­racy, just a lot of love.

That car­ried over into the school­room. We were there to learn. I felt our teach­ers truly cared for their stu­dents (and I think they still do). Yet, I was told when I could speak and when I could not, when I could get up from my desk and when I could not. I was told to do my home­work and to be pre­pared for up­com­ing tests. Ab­sences from school had to be ex­plained in writ­ing. Af­ter about three, as I re­call, you were li­able to get a call from the prin­ci­pal. My high school prin­ci­pal, an ex-mil­i­tary man by the name of L.L. Deck, could stop hall traf­fic with one “Stop where you are.” He said it, we did it. No­body ques­tioned Col. Deck.

I was not al­ways an en­thu­si­as­tic learner, par­tic­u­larly if I was not in­ter­ested in the sub­ject mat­ter, but that didn’t stop my teach­ers from ham­mer­ing a good ed­u­ca­tion into my hard head.

I was in­spired to go to col­lege be­cause I wanted to em­u­late my older brother, Bob. He was and re­mains my role model. I had a pretty fair ca­reer as did my brother, also a prod­uct of the pub­lic school sys­tem, and the rest, as they say, is his­tory.

So, what hap­pened to pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion in the in­terim? Why the in­ces­sant crit­i­cism of our pub­lic schools (ex­cept dur­ing elec­tion time) and why the in­sis­tence of many Repub­li­can ide­o­logues to en­cour­age pri­vate school schol­ar­ships with pub­lic tax dol­lars?

Let me an­swer that last ques­tion first. Many of the ide­o­logues are syco­phants of the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Ex­change Coun­cil, a su­per-se­cret or­ga­ni­za­tion of com­pa­nies and state leg­is­la­tors that sup­pos­edly pro­motes the pri­vate en­ter­prise sys­tem. ALEC’s stated pur­pose is good. Their ex­e­cu­tion is dog poop. Made up of mostly mi­dlevel cor­po­rate man­agers, they play leg­is­la­tors like a one-string banjo and even write their leg­is­la­tion, such as the mis­named “school choice” leg­is­la­tion. So, you can see where our leg­is­la­tors get their cue. Surely, you didn’t think they thought this stuff up by them­selves. (Truth in ad­ver­tis­ing: My alma mater, AT&T is a mem­ber of ALEC. That is also dog poop.)

How we view pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion to­day doesn’t mean it is not as good as it once was. It means our so­ci­ety has changed and not for the bet­ter. Drugs, tran­siency, poverty, abuse, school vi­o­lence, ap­a­thetic par­ents, kids with a strong — and wrong — sense of en­ti­tle­ment. This is what pub­lic schools must deal with to­day that was not a part of my ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence.

Our leg­is­la­tors want to use more tax cred­its to put kids in pri­vate schools where the rules are dif­fer­ent. Pri­vate schools can ac­cept who they want, make the kind of rules they want and kick kids out if they choose. So, where do they re­turn? To the pub­lic schools, of course, which have to ac­cept them.

I have no is­sue with pri­vate schools, but don’t take tax dol­lars from the state bud­get to ad­van­tage them. In­stead, our leg­is­la­tors should do some heavy lift­ing for a change and at­tempt to fix the prob­lems with so­ci­ety that carry over into the class­room. They would then — voila! — have solved many of the prob­lems con­fronting pub­lic schools. Why do I have to think of ev­ery­thing? It must be that darned pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion I re­ceived. Duh!

You can reach Dick Yar­brough at dick@ dick­yarbrough.com; at P. O. Box 725373, At­lanta, Ge­or­gia 31139 or on Face­book at www. face­book.com/dick­yarb

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