A very brief discussion of education, about back in the day, during a meeting on June 4th, 2009 brought memories flooding back, quite difficult to shut off.
June 1948. The end result of my high school education at W.A. Pattillo in Tarboro was an offer to apply for a chemistry scholarship from the University of Rochester NY . Plus, I received the Bausch & Lomb honorary science award. All thanks to my science teacher Mrs. Suzanna Thomas. In all the years I attended Pattillo schools I never saw a NEW text book. They were all hand-me-downs from White schools, some with pages missing. In winter the heat was off half the time. No Air Conditioning. No lunch room. No gym. No bus transportation. Football uniforms were those discarded by White school teams. Black teachers were paid half that of White teachers.
Now, here is something that I know will work in today’s schools. Back in the day, high school students, beginning with freshmen, were told that they were now young adults and they were expected to act as such and would be treated as such. Being at the silly age we giggled at first. We very quickly became serious however. The faculty would address students as Mr. or Miss.. We as students would acknowledge members of the faculty in the same manner. If you had to be reminded too many times, you would receive a lecture from the principal Mr. W.H. Pattillo. One only wanted one of those. We were taught to say “thank you” and “please” when appropriate. The social graces. You know, hold the door open to let ladies enter a room first. Open car doors for ladies. You know what? They told us they were preparing us for college and for everyday life!
If a student had a problem of any kind he or she could confide in any teacher. All teachers were counselors. And then there was something about a truant officer. Ever heard of one? I never saw him or her, Black or White, but the word was your parents never wanted a visit from one. Your parents told you that.
Some teachers were better counselors than others however. My French teacher, on the very first day of class, took one look at me and I at her and decided not to like each other. Sure enough,one day during French class she sent me packing to the auditorium and told me to start washing the windows during French class for five days. My infraction? I had a song sheet tucked away in my French textbook and I was memorizing the words to the latest song by Nat King Cole. The next day the principal saw me sitting in the auditorium and asked me why. I told him everything and he left. He was back in a few minutes and told me to go back to class. I did. I never made above a D+ in French no matter how hard I tried. But I never washed one window.
The other Apple.
Following is part of a letter in Discover Magazine August 2008, written by Jay Michalsky of Altadena CA : “I was in elementary school in the 1960s and still remember many of the things I was taught in New Math. I know the difference between a number and a numeral. I know what the union of two sets is. I can count in base 8 , and I know the numerals in Egyptian hieroglyphics. I also know the commutative and associative properties. WHAT I CAN’T DO IS ADD, SUBTRACT, MULTIPLY AND DIVIDE!” Can you? I can.
My son was born in 1963. I could not help him in his New Math. I could only pray for him. We never even held a discussion about so-called New Math. Ever.
It is said that problems within our school system(ECPS) are not due to a shortage of money. There is therefore no shortage of supplies and physical plant, one can presume. We have children who are excelling in school each year. However too many are barely average and far too many are below average achievers. So, what’s the problem? Nobody will tell us. So, from that, we are left to draw our own conclusions. One conclusion. Though there is “a plenty of money” it is not being spent wisely. OK, how about teacher pay? Still too low. But at least it is not a Black-White thing. Is it? What about principals? How many Black ones? How many White ones? The last time I asked that question I was stonewalled. OK, so we have lunch rooms. I hear children can get breakfast if they come to school hungry. Money wisely spent. No truant officers? Ugh. Not enough counselors or NO counselors? Ugh.
OK, how about suspensions? Word is the superintendent won’t hear cases where suspensions are less than 10 days long? No Kidding? No Kidding. No matter how many short-term suspensions are heaped upon a child. Easy pickings for revenge. I think the word is retaliation, without the super knowing about it. Another word is “remedy”. “Remedial tactics”. Against our children. Now they say, the reasons or circumstances for applying remedial tactics, they say, are confidential. No Kidding? Why then, are the parents so eager to make public the reasons when ECPS is not? Sounds like tyranny. Though Black students are disproportionately subjected to remedial tactics, the children of White parents are also victims. One in three Hispanics. One in three Other. And it goes on and on.
This discussion is dismal. We should be throwing rose petals at our super and faculty. Instead it’s barbs. We get generalities or nothing when we ask for information. The PR person has form letters at the ready. By the way, that should not be a career appointment. In fact, I think it is ineffective. It serves no useful purpose. By the time one gets to the head office building one is not interested in PR. One wishes to see the super. Now that’s where the bobbing and weaving starts. Vague answers. Approximations. Like 15-20% reduction in suspensions. Reduced from what to what? Approximations are cop-outs. So we still don’t know the rules or events that trigger a suspension. So we still don’t know who gave the super the authority to ignore suspensions under 10 days. So we still don’t know if a child gets enough to eat and has a good place to sleep and to study. We still don’t know if our children are loved and respected and taught the social graces. We still don’t know why our Black children are disproportionately suspended, when they clearly need the most help IN school.
The law says every child in North Carolina is entitled to a good, sound, basic education, guaranteed. It also says a child is not learning if he or she is not in school.
So, get busy ECPS. As someone recently said, “We have exactly enough time, starting now.”
Richard H Parker Jr.