letter to the editor

One room schools and slide rules

Mon, 04/01/2024 - 4:15pm

    Dear Editor:

    When I see the multi-million dollar schools being built with Broadway-like stages filled with philharmonic quality band instruments, Olympic-style athletic spaces, and weight rooms, I wonder where the priorities are. I was blessed to graduate over 50 years ago when the buildings were old and shabby, and the athletic and art programs were modest. I consider myself lucky because in the 1950s we had competent, even driven, teachers, many truly dedicated to the service of teaching. We had textbooks printed on plain paper, many with no pictures in them. The courses were reading, writing, arithmetic, history, and science. The high-tech device was a slide rule. There was competition, failure, fights on the playground, and detention. It was a small slice of the real world that we were being prepared to enter. Counter intuitively, for many of us, it was the best of times – overcoming obstacles and setbacks, failing and regrouping, and then enjoying hard won successes and finding pride.

    We graduated from high school with some scars and memories of hard times but were educated, tough, and prepared for life. We were full of confidence with high expectations and ready to enter the adult world. Enter and master the world we did. My generation came after the “Greatest Generation,” a generation educated in one room schools, shaped by hardship, with engineers trained on slide rules that put a man on the moon. Some, not all, of that rubbed off on us.

    What do we have to show for our majestic schools and facilities, the computers, and the cutting-edge technology in our education system? Children performing well below their grade level, children that are unhappy and depressed, children committing suicide. College freshmen that need training to reach high school graduate levels. A young adult population that is unhappy. A country in decline.

    It is time to recognize what we are doing is not working and the solution is not more Taj Mahals, not prettier government approved textbooks, and not more social engineering. We need to get back to the basics that were proven to work. Sometimes less is more.

    Joe Grant