The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.—James A. Baldwin
Mom always said she was 5′ 2″ tall. I’m sure she was at one young point in her life. Most of my life she was about an inch shorter than that, and she continued shrinking. That never stopped her, though. She couldn’t be bullied, by administration, student, or parent. To cross her as an adult meant being on the receiving end of a tongue-lashing that damn-near drew blood. To cross her as a child meant bending over, grabbing your ankles, and being thankful her arthritis prevented her from swinging that paddle as strongly as she might. In her mind, the first thing one needed in an education was discipline and respect. One didn’t begin learning until those two things were present.
At the same time, though, Mother could be incredibly compassionate. Being the preacher’s wife in a small town meant she usually knew when a student’s family was struggling. School policy prevented her from helping a child directly, but she would find a way to make sure a child had food at home, or clean clothes, or in at least one case light by which to read. Hugs were something she handed out readily, even long after one left her classroom. After school tutoring wasn’t’ part of a program; it was just something she did as student’s had need.
I look now at how schools have changed and want to cry. We have so woefully underfunded our schools that teachers show up to find absolutely no resources in their classrooms, not even textbooks or dry erase markers. We totally misunderstand the point of education when we think test scores are a sufficient or accurate measure of learning and/or teacher adequacy. Library shelves sit empty because there’s no money for books. We wonder why there’s a teacher shortage in almost every state, not realizing that by the time teachers pay for all their supplies, books for their classrooms, and materials for students, they’re not longer making a living wage!
I’m glad that the little ones can now come home and watch re-runs of Mr. Rodger’s Neighborhood on Netflix. They are thoroughly enthralled as they pick up the values education that are no longer part of the school curriculum. Education for them is a very different experience than it was for my sons, and almost unrecognizable compared to my experience. That we have allowed the situation to deteriorate is inexcusable and everyone is at fault. We have no education system when we refuse to learn. Even Mother couldn’t solve that problem.