By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
WHAP! THUMP! SMACK! Today those are the sounds of violence. Yet 50 years ago they were the sounds of learning, the sounds of accountability, the sounds of teaching, the sounds heard in classrooms.
With the exception of one’s pride, no collateral damage occurred. You were there to learn, and learn you did. There was no time for fooling around: lessons had to be taught and learned.
To insure discipline, respect and an academic classroom environment, creative motivations were developed. Disruption in the classroom brought on punishments ranging from detention after school to writing a sentence many times on the blackboard.
From the application of the rattan (a switch) several times to the back of one’s hand, to pushups and—my personal favorite—putting on boxing gloves and going a round with a teacher who could have been a contender.
A daily minimum of three hours of homework was a given. Short of hospitalization, no excuses were accepted. You were held accountable for getting the work in on time.
Upon arriving at school, you were properly attired. This included dress-type shoes, slacks, a dress shirt and a tie. Females were required to wear appropriate-length skirts or dresses, blouses, sweaters and proper footwear. Many parochial schools required uniforms.
Homework advanced your academic prowess and instilled the value of a good work ethic in the individual. Proper attire infused pride into oneself and emphasized the expectation of a proper appearance when entering the work force.
Back at home, parents, many of who severely lacked creature comforts growing up, truly understood the values of a good education. Homework was completed before you were allowed to sink your head into your pillow. Punishments at school were met with a bit more punishment at home.
This resulted in a finished product able to read, write and clearly speak the King’s English. Only those who demonstrated their mastery of academics were allowed to pursue a college degree. Adhering to strict standards allowed our country a predominant leadership role in the world.
Boy, have times changed!
Now we have evolved into a culture of mediocrity in which trying but failing is celebrated, while success is looked upon with a jaundiced eye.
To solve a problem, we must understand the problem. People who develop a lazy thought process will immediately blame the teachers. Let’s examine that.
Prior to the start of any school day, a large majority of miscreants (a.k.a. students) can be found outside the building engaged in behavior that would be found offensive even in the most primitive society. Bullying the weak. Using language that would make the saltiest of sailors blush. Dressed in clothing that leaves little to the imagination. Teachers’ or parents’ responsibility? You decide.
When they’re all supposed to be in their places with sunshiny faces, many are still arriving late to the classroom because they were unable to get out of bed. Parent or teacher?
The school must provide students with breakfast. In any 40-minute class, a teacher will experience students falling asleep, texting, disruptive behavior, failure to do homework (if any was given), swearing, fighting and disrespect towards them. The teacher and the class will probably be “mooned” several times because of students’ inappropriate dress. Teacher or parent?
This behavior creates a negative impact on those wanting to learn. Such behavior in a private school would get the student tossed out; however, we cannot do that in public schools. It is not unusual for a student to achieve success merely through longevity. Many who fail to make the grade are pushed on to the next grade over the objection of the classroom teacher.
Add to this mixture the state and federally mandated tests, programs forced on our public schools and keeping order in one’s class. It is a testament to the teachers, parents and students who are able to overcome these barriers and successfully go on to college.
While I know there are few bad teachers, I believe the great majority are extremely competent. But before an evaluation can be conducted, the following must be implemented:
1. Respect for teachers, school administration and classmates must be strictly enforced.
2. Students must come to school rested, fed, homework done and ready to learn.
3. Lastly, it’s time for our state legislators to introduce long overdue legislation addressing and preventing the migration of domestic gypsy parasites looking to ravish our state.
Speaking of domestic parasites, I regret that I am unable to provide this week’s TANF numbers.
Don’ forget: Remember in November.