Questions about Education

Dear Editor:

Education has been in the forefront of public discourse in recent days.  The fact we are concerned about education speaks very well of us.  Irmo has a great history of supporting public education and that support obviously continues.

While our legislature appears intent on attacking public education and removing money from public education, the support for public education in Irmo remains strong.

Before we can truly discuss education, we should first ask: “What does it mean for a person to be educated?”; and “Exactly what do we seek to accomplish with our students?”

There are other related questions which need to be answered: “Is there a difference between being trained and being educated?”; “Is the purpose of our system to simply give children the ability to get a job?”; “Are we simply trying to fill the children with information which will probably be outdated before they graduate?”; “Should all children be taught the same way?”; and “Has anyone ever explained to the children or their parents exactly what is hoped to be accomplished by schooling?”.

Many of our children come from homes where life is a daily struggle simply to exist.  Some are regularly exposed to substance abuse, profanity, hunger and violence.  To these children, life is a warfare of sorts and every day is one of hardship.  Many come to school hungry or sleepy or both.  A hungry child will never learn. 

School should be a place of refuge for all children.  We will never teach anything if the students don’t feel love and acceptance.  Safety and security is a must.  Isn’t it horrible we now have to have active shooter drills in all schools?

To many children, our system of education is one of drudgery, boredom, frustration and failure.

We can blame many parents for the problems of their children.  Such blame is probably merited in many cases.  It is hard for a single mom on minimum wage to ensure a child’s science project is first rate or to verify homework is done and correct.  Many parents probably wouldn’t even know if the work is correct if they tried to help.

 When a child who hears profanity in his home every day calls the teacher a bad name, we go nuts.  Yet, the child hears the words in his home and often in his entertainment.  Profanity proliferates the media.  Popular music regularly uses the “B” word as a reference to females.  The “F” word, the “S” word and the “N” word are often seen and used in our culture.  Violence and revenge are all over our movies and televisions.  Is it any wonder the children are confused and we have a problem in our classrooms?

 As a society, we have become more technologically savvy.  We have lost many of our social mores.  This loss translates to a child as confusion.  Many deem school as simply another form of social warfare.  They are frustrated, confused, scared and angry.

We gain nothing by placing blame on someone else.  The reality is the parents, the community and our society in general are failing our children.  The schools have to recognize they are the last bastion of defense against ignorance, anarchy and further loss of societal norms.

 So, back to the question first presented: “What does it mean for a person to be educated?”.  A person must learn the basics.  Reading, comprehension, writing, science, history and basic math are all essential to becoming educated.  To learn these skills takes effort and discipline.  An educated person must learn to appreciate the value of discipline and must be taught self-discipline.

Our students must be given personal discipline in order to properly learn the necessary skills.  Our educators of today have developed wonderful new ways to teach basic skills.  Teachers need our support and need our help if they are to be what we need them to be.

Griping and complaining about schools accomplishes nothing.  Taking money from public schools does not help.  Sending public money to private schools which claim to be “Christian” harms public education.  If what the so-called Christian academies teach are Christian values please count me out.  Our public schools are a national treasure and we need them now more than ever.  Taking the resources away from public schools, amounts to societal suicide. 

 For a person to be educated, he has to be more than trained to get a job.  An educated person is one who recognizes the miracle of life which surrounds us.  Such a person can engage in independent thought and critical thinking.  He has an unquenchable thirst to learn more.  He reads.

 A truly educated person knows and appreciates formal and informal manners.  He recognizes beauty when he sees and also recognizes the opposite.  Such a person know how to respect older and younger people and how to treat members of the opposite sex.  He knows how to dress and to groom himself and he also has the ability to control his mouth and his passions. 

Some people cannot be educated in “book learning” as well as others.  All can be loved, appreciated and shown how to be a good person.

 The school cannot do everything.  Because of the failures of many families in our community and in our system, the school is forced to do more. 

            How do we help?  Let’s try some of these things that cost nothing:

            1.         Volunteer – Go to your local school and volunteer to substitute teach or be a mentor.  Get involved;                  

            2.         Support after school programs;

            3.         Vote – Don’t let politicians take money away from public schools;

            4.         Ask the school board to remove all distractions;

            5.        Consider same-sex classrooms – Same-sex classrooms take male and female issues out of the classroom. No one can teach properly when young men are showing out and young ladies in full flirtation mode

            6.         Consider uniform dress – Uniform dress promotes discipline and self-respect.  A uniform dress code takes away the problems of those who cannot afford to dress properly. 

The children need to be fed.  These kids often come to school hungry and they stay hungry throughout the day.  Let them snack in the classroom if they want it.

The children should participate in cleaning the school.  They should sweep the floor.  They should take out the trash.  They should be asked to remove graffiti.  If the building is “their school”, they should learn the value of keeping their school neat and orderly.

It is essential that the school teachers and administrators love the children.  All of them.  No one can teach another anything unless the teacher truly loves and desires good for the students.

The comments contained in this letter are simply thoughts.  I am sure in our community, this letter will bring serious negative comments.

The author of this letter intends to offend no one.  There are many other things that can and should be done to address the problems we have with public education.  I offer my sincere appreciation to all of those in public education.  They are doing a good job. 

God bless our public schools.


 Edward Bear