NOT SO OLD PROVERB: “You can drive people to the library but you can’t make them read. ” Chop
I just read an article in the Lexington Herald Leader about Pike County, KY’s school board authorizing qualified teachers with concealed carry permits. As a retired teacher I am very opposed to teachers taking on the added responsibility of armed guards. There are many things that I find abhorrent about this but nothing bothers me as much as the level of training, skill, and fitness needed for the task.
We’ve all seen enough TV news about our infantry troops training for urban warfare. These professionals spend months and years honing the tactical skills needed. They are also required to maintain the highest level of physical fitness. They have to be strong, agile, and fast of foot. They also have to make instant life and death decisions. These are things not often found in America’s army of mild-mannered schoolmarms. Before teaching I worked jobs that demanded physical strength and endurance. Once I entered the classroom, however, I spent the next thirty years lifting sticks of chalk and passing out textbooks.
Think about the teachers you had in school and then go to YouTube and look at some videos about police and military tactical firearms training. Looking back over my career I can’t think of a single teacher, including myself, who should have been permitted to carry a weapon in the classroom.
One of the most controversial of Trump’s nominees was his appointment of ultra conservative, anti-public education, billionaire supporter of all things right-wing, Betsy DeVos. DeVos got through the confirmation process in spite of massive criticism from the public, teachers, teacher unions, and this old retired history teacher.
In one of her first actions she attempted to visit a public school in DC and was turned away by a crowd of protesters. She must have eventually sneaked in the back door because she reported having met with some of the teachers. The following is from her subsequent news release.
The included video was shot by students of the Radio and TV class at McClain High School in Greenfield, Ohio. McClain is where I graduated from and where I taught American History and Government for twenty-six years.
It was built for and gifted to the people of Greenfield by early twentieth century industrialist, Edward Lee McClain and literally is a one of a kind public school. In the late 1990s, when older public schools were being demolished and replaced with new modern facilities, the state of Ohio exempted McClain because of its historical importance.
SCREW EDUC: Donald Trump never attended public schools, his children didn’t, and he just made DeVos Sec. of Educ. So much for everyday kids.
The US Senate just made history for all the wrong reasons. For the first time ever the Vice President had to cast the deciding vote in a confirmation hearing. In this case Mike Pence broke the tie to award Betsy DeVos the position of Secretary of Education. A woman who has never attended a public school, whose children have never attended a public school, has no professional experience in education, and is highly opposed to public education. She and her family have donated over $200 million to Republican causes and guaranteed her success by heavily supporting the candidacy of a number of Republican US Senators. If any on the list below, or others, had broken ranks she would not have been confirmed. As an Ohioan I notice that our Senator Portman sold his vote for $51,000. Well, at least his vote cost more than Inhofe of Oklahoma.
Originally published on December 7, 2011. Republished here in honor of the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
70 years ago today a young man from Greenfield, OH survived and suffered from a tragedy that would forever mark his life and end the lives of so many of his friends ans shipmates. James Louis Wise, Seaman First Class, of Greenfield, was serving aboard the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii when the air forces of the Japanese Empire began their early Sunday morning bomb runs on the just arising soldiers and sailors of America’s military establishment in the Pacific. It would mark the beginning of America’s entry into the Second World War and a personal war Wise would deal with the rest of his life.
No one of my generation doesn’t know the significance of December 7, 1941. I hope such is true of today’s generation. Have a discussion with your kids today.
I’ve written lots of words, and read even more, about the ongoing Trail of Tears controversy. I’m going to try to make this the last blog I write on the subject and the topic is how to move it forward, how to help make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Based on what I’ve read in the local newspapers the school’s path forward is to take a couple of class periods and teach the story of the forceful removal of Indians during the early 1800s. This was ordered by president Andrew Jackson, in defiance of a Supreme Court order, and resulted in the tragic deaths of thousands of Eastern Native-Americans.
Additionally the cheerleaders involved met with Hillsboro’s cheerleaders where an apology was offered.
Since it’s been a long time since I knew for sure what was being taught by McClain’s Social Studies Department so I made some enquiries. To my pleasure I discovered that both US History (10th grade) and US Government (11th grade) are still being taught on a two-semester basis. World History is also being taught at the 9th grade level for two-semesters. Two electives, Psychology and Ancient History, are offered for a full year during the 11th and 12th years.
According to an article appearing in the local newspapers the Greenfield Board of Education will meet at 5:30 pm in the board meeting room . The purpose of the meeting is to hear the superintendent’s recommendation to terminate the employment of long-term cheerleader advisor, Patty Shelton. My wife and I are planning to attend the meeting and hope to see a large number of area residents also in attendance. I intend to ask permission to address the board prior to any decision but just incase such isn’t permitted I am publishing this list of notes I would like considered and discussed in open session before any decision is made.
NOTES ON TRAIL OF TEARS
November 4, 2016
1. The controversy that gave rise to this meeting has nothing to do with an act of malice. It is a result of innocent ignorance on the part of both the adviser and the cheerleaders.
2. The underlying factors are many and don’t exclude the leadership and staff of Greenfield Schools. What programs have you in place that teach sensitivity, empathy, and tolerance for America’s diversity?
3. From the beginning I, and many others, have seen this as being an opportunity to educate and not as an opportunity to lay blame and go head hunting.
I’m going to wade into waters that some of you won’t find sweet enough. For a long time it’s been generally accepted that conservatives are not as empathetic as liberals. You won’t find this carved on any of the stones Moses brought down from the mountain but it is a generally accepted truth.
Certainly you’re aware that conservatives like to call liberals, bleeding hearts or crybabies. I once heard a conservative comic say that, “When a man is down the best way to get him up is to kick him.” When a liberal takes exception to that thought they are looked down on as being a bunch of gullible mamby-pambies. Many believe reaching out and offering the hand of government weakens individual self determination and makes people wards of government and not self-sufficient individuals.
Just read an article about the current and continuing “crisis” in education. It is claimed that almost every school district in America is facing a severe shortage of qualified teachers. The culprits are retirement and other forms of attrition, low pay, job stresses, and the public’s attitude about education.
When I first considered teaching in the early 1960s demand outstripped supply and I liked knowing I could go most anyplace and find a position. I liked the idea of having that flexibility. I also liked knowing I’d have from Memorial Day to Labor Day to pursue other interest.
Of course neither of those are as true today as back then. There are lots of jobs but they tend to be in science, math, and special education, and in inner-city school districts. People in math and science can earn much more by taking their skills into industry rather than education. Summer break isn’t what it once was. The school year has been lengthened and today many schools commonly don’t let out until sometime in June and then resume classes around the middle of August. Of course salaries have been adjusted but not always fairly.
I read a post by a former student this afternoon about a young 8th grade student coming to her door and trying to sell her candy for a class field trip to the nation’s capital. She didn’t buy any candy but made a cash donation instead. The story ended with her saying she had chaperoned one of those trips and how meaningful it was, “Many of those kids had never been out of Highland County.”
While I’ve never been part of taking an entire class on a long-distance field trip I have worked with smaller groups. Back in the 1970s my friend Norman Gingerich and I took a group of six junior high kids to Washington DC for a couple of days and then to Monticello in Virginia. It was a great trip and created life-time memories for both students and adults. It was the longest trip any of them had ever taken, the first time they had been away from their families, and by far the biggest city they’d ever seen.
On another occasion I took five junior high special education kids to Cincinnati for a Reds game. When the game ended I decided it would be neat to drive across the Brent Spence Bridge and take the river route down to the I-275 bridge. For a couple kids this was both their first visit to Kentucky and their first time out of Ohio. This diversion was totally spontaneous and a treat for everyone but one student. Since it wasn’t mentioned on the information sheet I’d sent to the parents the kid became overly nervous because he was leaving Ohio without his mom knowing. As we crossed the Ohio River he vocally announced that he knew his mother was going to kill him when she found out she’d gone to Kentucky without her permission.
Looking back I suppose I did push the liability issue a bit but back then few of us ever worried about such things. Like so many times in teaching you just don’t want to pass up a “teachable moment.” I’m not sure that’s possible in today’s “teach to the test” environment. All I can say is, that’s too bad. Those students who took those trips with Norm and I still mention them when we meet. They may not remember anything else from our classes, but they remember driving under that “Welcome to Kentucky” sign.
During the recent Centennial Re-dedication of McClain High School I ordered and paid for a t-shirt being sold by a student organization. I’d forgotten and yesterday received a phone call notifying me the shirt was ready to be picked up.
So, early this afternoon I visited the school and to my pleasure was immediately and politely question by a teacher about my presence. When I said I was headed for the office the teacher helpfully asked if I knew where it was. After spending most of my life in that building I got a little smile out of that.
Anyway, I got to the office, retrieved my shirt, and proceeded to the exist at the far end of the first floor hallway. In passing several classrooms I was impressed by a couple of things. First was how intently involved the students were and second, almost everyone had a laptop computer on their desk.
For some reason I got into a discussion about history textbooks with my son recently. The gist of the conversation dealt with how history is being blatantly revised for political and/or religious purposes. From day one there have been those who’ve denied the Nazi holocaust or that man ever walked on the moon. And, believe it or not, the Flat Earth Society still exists.
Our conversation centered around the influences Texas has on the content and bias of textbooks in America. Texas is so large and selling its public schools books so profitable they have a huge impact on what and how things get taught.