One of the most disturbing things about the Internet is it has the wonderful capability of letting people think they “know everything.”

Students do know a lot. But they do NOT know enough.

I have not been in a classroom for some 33 years, but I did teach in the Neosho school system 12 years. I hold a lifetime Missouri teacher’s certificate and have a Specialist in Education degree which would qualify me to be an administrator.

So please believe my sincere interest in this topic of curriculum and course length for preparing our young people for this crazy world we are leaving as their inheritance.

The Federal government has finally agreed that the demands on teachers to teach to certain competency levels in the “No Child Left Behind Law” turned into a curriculum of “No Child Gets Ahead.” The mind broadening subjects and class activities were reduced or eliminated to make room for teaching to the test… and teachers were held ransom to make the grade or else.

Creative teachers cannot work in that environment. Good teachers do everything in their power to enhance learning. Now there is discussion to cut the classroom time down to four days. How backward can we go?

First of all this creates a huge inconvenience for the family. In most families today, both parents work. Elementary students should not be left alone at home. Babysitters, day care, etc., becomes prohibitively expensive for parents especially in this area where incomes are close to poverty level in the majority of families.

When I was teaching, we even had teachers who qualified for free lunch. Day care is often not up to a parental standard. Day care in this area is limited at best. I hear complaints about the four and a half day week.

Can you imagine what would occur with a high school population out on their own for a three day weekend? School districts and parents who leave teens at home without parental supervision or protection are just asking for trouble? Who is going to stop the drug dealer or the bully ringing the doorbell?

Our little rascals can work technologies we older folks cannot but that does NOT equate to common sense and good decisions they learn later in life. In fact, a community that goes to a 4-day school week proves the point.

The Neosho community is not overflowing with college graduates. Our high school graduates or dropouts who later enter the community colleges often have to take remedial classes. Why?

Maybe students or people here don’t like going to school. Who said they have to like it?

True, when the dropout rate got to 33% way back when, more sports, etc., were added to encourage students to stay in school. In my opinion that is about the time education began to become secondary in everybody’s mind.

In the words of a graduation address by Judge George Henry, “Education is not the most important thing in the world, but it is right up there with breathing.”

A free education and a good local community college is the best preservative we have of democracy. We have this in Neosho and to diminish that would be close to criminal in my opinion. We have pampered everyone long enough. Good intentions are a wonderful thing, but good education and training and discipline are critical.

I am in favor of embracing a six-day school week. We need to fill out the curriculum not cut back. I think any senior scientist would tell you that the fine arts and music and understanding history are really extensions of science. I know my life has been enhanced because of my exposure to these subjects.

Being able to talk about culture and ideas rather than gossip or politics has served me well in that I was accepted by people everywhere I went. A well-rounded education leads to promotions in any line of work.

I know that a few years back, physics was cancelled in the NHS curriculum. I know that cursive writing is no longer taught and middle school kids cannot read letters written in cursive.

People! All these kids need to know future life and communication cannot rely on that little texting machine that laughs at proper spelling and grammar.  A sliding finger does not create the man or woman I would want working for me or raising my progeny.

The human element in education is a magnet to an inquiring mind. Being able to verbally talk to other humans is the ultimate TEAM requirement.

A six-day school week would give teachers time in class for creative activities. Outside speakers could be welcomed to give views of the world the students will be facing.

In my classroom I had people come in giving up their own work time but sharing their life experience:

• I had a man whose grandmother had crossed on the Cherokee Trail of Tears.

• The Newton County juvenile officer spoke about the problems some young people face. We simulated a bank robbery and a local lawyer talked about court and law.

• A lady whose family had lived through the 1930’s Depression living in a tent spoke about losing their refrigerator and home to creditors.

The whole junior high had a time of mini courses where students could explore and they had different short-time courses. I taught one on creating a magazine. Another teacher taught kids how to make ropes. One class had reading time… not study hall but reading books of their choice. The whole idea was to give time to some enjoyment at school aside from the rigors of classroom.

Classroom vigor is what we taxpayers expect. Students should be taught as early as first grade that their education is a free gift of the community taxpayers. Students should not waste such a valuable gift given by the people in the community which nurtures them.

Education is not a right, it is a gift intended to create a population that can keep democracy alive and well. If we cannot create an educated population, we don’t deserve democracy.

Democracy cannot function without strong schools, and taxpayers should not be asked to pay for weak ones.

By Judy Haas Smith


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