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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
        Thursday, January 16 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster School days—the best and the worst of times

(Fourth in a series inspired by my "appearance" as a guest teacher last year at a local high school.)

My lifelong interaction with public education, especially high school, has always been ambivalent, what I'd have to call a love/hate relationship. Some of the faculty and some of the students in my own schools, growing up, seemed to cast themselves as friends while others chose to be my adversaries. But I learned early to concentrate on the half-full glass rather than the half-empty one, and make the best of my years in Blacklick Township schools.

I've written about that general topic earlier so won't rehash it, but in a nutshell those 12 years were the best and the worst. I loved the school experience for its social aspects, being with friends and being able to get in front of the public through programs, liked the football and basketball, the band and the talent shows, but I disliked school, more times than not—though not always—academically. It was too unchallenging, too—I hate to say it—"democratic." And I think these observations are similar to ones widely held; everyone has their plus and minus columns in considering their own public school experiences, and if they're parents, probably their children's schools, as well.

It's ironic that the system's "democratic" aspect is one of its failings because its "totalitarian" side is even worse (a subject that will get more development later). The shortcoming in schools being "democratic," of course, is that they have to play largely to the common denominators. Though they want some of the students to do their best in their classes, they seldom want anyone to excel in his or her personal life, as two of my teachers demonstrated, one by warning me not to ever mention my extracurricular journalistic efforts in his English classroom, and another forcing me to drop her typing class because I'd taken the effort to learn much of that skill independently. Independent thinking was discouraged for me, but I believe the system discourages it for everyone. The teachers who transcend the system, however, and inculcate independence of thinking and critical thought, are the ones for whom we're eternally grateful.

I want to take this thread along for a while, because there's no subject I've written more about in newspaper columns and editorials, though seldom here in the Jonal. But now I want to urge us to think creatively about public education, the institution, and what it has and what it needs. Even if we're grandparents with no children of our own in school now, like I am, we pay a large portion of our taxes in support of our schools. We're asked to approve bond measures for new school facilities, and whether we favor proposals like voucher schools, or whether we'd support more control, or even outlawing, homeschooling.

As always, your input is welcome.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

 Words to the wise

Don't squat with your spurs on.

—Will Rogers
Sent by Sally Covolo

Thought for the day

Words to live by:
Never miss a good chance to shut up.

—Will Rogers
Sent by Sally Covolo

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