As plain as our noses

Published 9:13 pm Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Before I begin the major thrust of my column today, I would like to praise the Lord for the great rain showers that He sent us this past Sunday night. I had almost forgotten what it sounded or felt like.

I was out walking the day before the big shower and I felt a little drop of water upon my head. I looked up to see if a bird had flown overhead, but, alas, it was not a bird, or a plane, but, Hallelujah, it was rain!
I was checking out my daughter’s Facebook page last night. By the way, parents, it’s not a bad idea to check out your son’s and daughter’s Facebook pages every now and then. You might learn more about them there than you do in face-to-face conversations. You may not like that, but “it is what it is.”

Anyway, my daughter wrote that she was a little disheartened by all the negative press that teachers are receiving these days. As a teacher, she acknowledged that our school systems were not perfect, but that many of the teachers that she knew were caring, hardworking, kind and dedicated.

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Her message was an exhortation to the troops (teachers) in the trenches to “hang in there” and continue to try and make a difference in the lives of their students.

Naturally, my opinion of my daughter is prejudiced by the fact that she is my daughter and I love her. She lives in Virginia, and I don’t get to see her too often, but when we are together, we enjoy each other’s company and I am very proud of the woman that she has become. I know that she is a dedicated and caring teacher, not one just punching a clock.

I also am not so naïve as to believe that all teachers are called to that profession and enter it with the gifts and graces to be successful. All professions I know, including that of preachers, doctors, lawyers, bankers, farmers, etc., have their share of people who are just getting by, so to speak.

It is a fact that our educational institutions are not succeeding. A large percentage of graduates are not prepared for today’s difficult economy. The dropout rate is shocking. Most schools have a police force of some kind on campus. Students graduate from high school, but then have to take remedial courses in college. You know the problems.

The peanut gallery is full of people who think they know the answers. It’s the teachers’ and their unions’ faults. Some might criticize the superintendents or the school boards. Others will say that we are not spending enough money on education. Just as you know the problems, you also know the finger pointing is in all directions.

We’ll do anything but look in the mirror at ourselves. Maybe I am just another card-carrying member of the peanut gallery, but I think the blame for the faltering American educational system is as plain as the noses on our faces.

I don’t think it’s the teachers. I don’t believe it’s a matter of money and it is certainly not the facilities. Back when the American educational system was the envy of the world, there were good and bad teachers. Plus, the great buildings and technological advances of this time would put to shame the schools that many of us attended.

I can’t speak for the Decatur County schools, but in the Pelham City Schools where I attended, the textbooks might have been old and tattered, the chalkboards were scratched, the radiators creaked and I don’t remember seeing too many new buildings. The school budget was squeezed tighter than Dick’s hatband by Superintendent D.D. Morrison.

There were many of the teachers that began their careers at Pelham High School and taught all their years there. I will add there were some good teachers and bad, but there was something that we had then that we don’t have now. And I think that is the problem, not just for the school situation, but for just about every problem that faces this country.

Not all the kids had both a daddy and momma, but most did. There was the occasional early death that had taken one of the parents and, every now and then, there was a divorce. Even with the occasional challenge of widowhood or divorce, however, there was the presence of respect. That respect was born and nurtured, not by the school system, not by the police department, not even by the church, but by the home.

School was not a place to get breakfast and lunch and hang out with friends. Food was served at lunch and whatever they put on the plate was all there was. Hanging out with friends was fun and OK, but that wasn’t the purpose of school. School was for learning the three “r’s,” reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic.

Respect was enforced occasionally by the teachers and the principal. I say, occasionally, because discipline was not a huge problem. Were there bullies and hoods, as we called them? Yes, but they were quickly put in their place by the principal and the rest of the student body. Rules of conduct were understood by everyone whether rich, poor, young, old, student or parent. The community supported that concept.

Usually, if you got a whipping at school, there was another one waiting for you at home and don’t think you could get away with anything. Bad news travels fast.

What’s the difference today? It’s not the teachers. It’s the absence of daddies and mommas and the respect that was learned through them at home.

I’ll end with this. The fifth of The Ten Commandments speaks of honoring father and mother. Paul says it is the first commandment with a promise; that of living long in the land. I don’t think he was talking about individual longevity of life. I think he was talking about God’s people living in prosperity in the land that He was giving them. It was God’s way of saying the family is of the utmost importance. Keep it strong and your life in the land will be long.

Our institutions are crashing and our schools are just one of them. They are crashing because our families have disappeared. Rebuild the family; revive the country. It’s as plain as the noses on our faces.