School is starting soon and more young people I know are signing up for on-line classes than actually going on campus. Their college experiences will be nothing like those in the old June Allyson, Peter Lawford musicals. Times change in amazing ways.
Sometime after Labor Day used to be the beginning of my New Year. I spent years as a student, then classroom teacher, and later, a Science of Mind instructor. That history conditioned me to celebrate new beginnings in the middle of September.
Now school starts much earlier in my neighborhood and it seems a shame to have to start so early but everything changes with time. Right now, parents are buying backpacks and new sneakers. While they’re forking over the dough, they’re hoping their kids will get dedicated teachers and that they will learn something this year.
Times change and school years also change but most of us still believe that education is critically important. We believe that free public schools strengthen the nation and we believe that the better educated we are, the more prosperous we will be. That was true when the immigrants sent their kids to school to learn English in the 1800’s and it is true now.
My personal education was all from California public schools and I have always been pleased with the quality of my teachers and classes. My high school years were rich in opportunity even though I went to school in a poor, disadvantaged neighborhood.
Banning High School in Wilmington CA had a collection of amazing (mostly female) teachers whose career opportunities were narrow. They chose teaching over nursing or secretarial work. They were brilliant women – the kind who are now making big bucks in corporations or teaching in graduate schools.
As most of my readers know, I’m all for women’s equal opportunity, but I don’t doubt the wider choices very bright women enjoy now diminished the quality of public education. I’d like to think that choice is good and the ones who choose teaching today are just as brilliant as mine were, but I don’t believe it. School staffs are not as good as they were sixty years ago.
I know there are still dedicated teachers out there but the job is different. Teachers aren’t respected. The money isn’t there. In many places, teachers are badly treated. The job has lost a lot of it’s appeal.
I am very sorry I believe schools are worse because education is more important than ever. In many places, such as Los Angeles City, students are now primarily non-Caucasian and many are poor. We still believe in the power of education to lift people up and help change their circumstances.
Good teachers make a big difference. My mother, her five sisters, and one brother were all teachers for part of their lives. I chose to teach because I needed a job and I was lucky I was as good as I was. Now I have a wonderful nephew who could have chosen many other occupations; he is a gifted, dedicated teacher.
I know my nephew does a wonderful job and I know the kids who have contact with him are fortunate. A good teacher has tremendous impact on kids who want to move up in the world. Only parents are more powerful in a kid’s life than his or her favorite teacher.
If you don’t believe me, go back and look at your own life. Make a list of your favorite teachers and what they taught you. You will see how very important teachers were to you and you can reason they are as important to today’s kids.
Every student deserves an articulate, concerned teacher who is willing to answer questions and be interesting. It may very well be that technology allows many more students to make contact with gifted specialists. I am not automatically against change. In fact, I am thrilled at how wonderfully easy it is to access information.
The fact remains that good teachers are necessary in the classroom and they are also on-line. It isn’t as much the method of delivery that makes a difference as it is the teacher’s ability to make the subject material come alive.
Information is a wonderful thing to have. Our body of information has grown so large that it has also become very important to know how to access information and research sources. I find young people have many of these marvelous skills. There is a lot to be said for having access to the world’s knowledge on your cell phone.
As the world has grown more complicated, the idea of being a well-rounded, well-informed person seems to have taken a back seat to the idea of learning a trade. This is natural in the current climate of job scarcity but the true purpose of education should be wider than earning a living. It should include a wide interest in the humanities and political science as well as the arts. Essentially, classes are designed for learning to think.
We need people with ability to learn independently and think critically if our North American nations are going to continue to prosper. It seems to me that the total population needs to be concerned that our young people are being well educated.
I am also concerned about the cost of a higher education. We seem to accept that it is an individual responsibility. I find it appalling that student’s graduate with huge student loan debt. An educated populace makes everyone in the nation greater.
I know I sound like a cranky old crank when I say that my tuition costs were never more than $40 a semester. In those days, California was so proud of their wonderful state college and junior college system. The education system was basically funded by taxing the total population. When Ronald Reagan became Governor our wonderful education system was dismantled.
I believe that education should be open to everyone who is willing to do the work. I believe that we should do everything we possibly can to make sure that students get really great teachers and really great schools. There are ways to tax the wealthy and educate everyone less expensively.
If California wants to once again be a leader, it needs to reassemble its liberal education policies. If the United States wants to maintain its position and continue to lead the world toward peace and prosperity, it must find a way to educate people without crippling them with debt.
I believe free and inexpensive public education made this nation great. It is a major key to keeping us prosperous and effective as we lead the planet toward expanding the good things of life and discovering their spiritual magnificence.
Start by saying a prayer for healthy schools. Let’s all pay attention to how we are funding our schools and make sure we are keeping them healthy and repaired. As far as I can see, education is the ultimate infrastructure.
Is there a teacher you want to thank today?
Is there a student you want to encourage today?
Is there a class you want to take?