I recently came across this essay by a longtime OKC resident and it so frustrated me, that I thought I would share my rebuttal to his comments with you. Let me begin by saying that his thesis is that school today lacks in its ability to prepare young people to be adults, and that we could use some “old school” thinking.
The author describes his time in school as one where “teachers taught and we listened and studied.” He says they kept score when playing sports and that kids created their own forms of entertainment. He also cites an example of racial discrimination, saying it made an impression on him. He thinks there was “some” sexual discrimination at the time. Reading between the lines, I was already getting tense.
Now, there are a few things the author mentions with which I agree. Having a strong emphasis on work ethic is one. The other is that student loan debt is definitely a negative thing. Otherwise, the characterization of “old school” as something to which we should harken leaves me vexed at the lack of social awareness this person has, both about the time in which he grew up, and about how schools are functioning today.
I think the most upsetting thing he wrote mentioned that nearly all of the students who graduated with him were prepared for life, able to get a job, go to college or join the military. The clear implication is that students are not prepared by our schools to do those things today. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The writer points out that in his day there were no security devices and that “boys” carried pocket knives to school. In a culture where violence is pervasive and school shootings occur, does he really think that “old school” formula is a thing to which we should return? I’m nearly apoplectic at his cognitive dissonance regarding the culture in which he now lives.
The writer also makes a clear implication when he points out that in the “old school” way, students learned the subject being taught in high school — but as opposed to what? I wish I knew what he thought we were teaching our students in history, math, and art. . .
He also says there were no make-up days at the end of the school year to recompense the snow days taken. Is that a good thing? Fewer days in school do not equate to better learning outcomes, so I am not sure what he is implying with that one.
Recently in a group meeting, I heard a leader say that kids are no different today from how they were before. In some ways, that is true. They still spread rumors about each other and fight about little things. The younger ones still cry when someone takes the crayon they wanted. They are still incredibly sweet.
But the truth is our kids are growing up in a culture vastly different from the “old school” for which the writer nostalgically pines. The advent of the internet alone was enough to change that — let alone the negative influence of social media, the love affair with violence and the oversexualization of young people. These issues have had a profound effect on young people, and teachers are working daily to mitigate those negative influences with little in the way of help. That help can’t come until we as a community recognize that things are different, our kids need more, and that will cost money. We need more counselors, more teachers, more community resources right in the schools.
If we keep our heads in the sand dreaming of an “old school,” we will never get our children what they deserve so that they can become the productive citizens we all want them to be.
Come visit the schools with me, as my friends at Kerr3 Architects did today, and get your own reality check. It’s the best way to keep us looking forward and solving problems, instead of looking backwards and shaking heads.