Schools are changing, but so are kids
Recently, I attended a graduation ceremony at the local university. Before it began, a gentleman on stage asked the audience to shut off all phones. It was right about then that I had the urge to stand up and shout, Phones? You brought phones to graduation? What on earth is wrong with you people? You can t go two hours without checking to see who the president has fired next or the latest video of a cat going berserk trying to escape a plastic bag? But then the soothing strains of Pomp and Circumstance playing while the graduates entered the hall calmed me down. That is until I gazed at the audience from my balcony seat and noticed hundreds of cell phones glowing down below. Guess there must have been a bit more pomp on those screens. Once the graduates were finally all seated, they, along with their families, friends, and two security officers who were there, I guess, to protect us all from lethal boredom, were entertained and enlightened by the usual gamut of speakers.
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It was about this time that my mind began to drift away from the moment and reflect on how my school experience differed from the whole education scene today. And the contrasts are obvious at all levels of school. Today, I see little kids staring at their phones while walking to the neighborhood elementary school in the morning. What could a fourth-grader possibly be checking on his phone this time of morning? The weather report? Some last-minute research on obtuse angles? You never saw this when I was that age. If I had wanted to take my family s gargantuan black phone to school, I would have needed a wheel barrel.
If you go to visit a middle school today, chances are, along with the principal and the teachers, you ll observe a security guard greeting the students as they enter the building. It s even possible in some schools that the young, petite language arts teacher is packing heat. We did not need security guards at the middle school I attended because all of the teachers there were nuns. Trust me, Sister Christopher was way more intimidating than any security guard. I can t swear to it, but I suspect that with those black habits they wore, the nuns were way ahead of their time as the first practitioners of concealed carry in schools not guns, but rather yardsticks which would suddenly appear from nowhere at the first sign of a discipline problem.
And I guarantee you, if there was any bullying going on in my school back then, it was the nuns who were doing it! Some of the most obvious differences in schools today are on display at the secondary level. I ve been in a local high school student center prior to the start of classes in the morning and, whoa, how things have changed. I m definitely not a prude, but the overall appearance of kids today makes a school visitor wonder if he has the right place could this actually be a place of learning? Plus, all the kids are standing around looking at their phones, so they obviously have not moved on much from when they were in fourth grade.
We could not wear blue jeans at my large metro high school back in the 1960s, or T-shirts, or shorts, etc. When I was attempting to grow my hair like the Beatles, the principal stopped me at the front door one morning, measured my bangs with a ruler, took my name, and told me to get a haircut pronto. Yeah, things have changed. Walk into a modern high school student center around lunchtime today and you ll think that you ve entered a shopping mall food court with all the pizza, taco, and burger stands. But it probably won t be very crowded since many of the kids hop in cars and drive off like maniacs. To go where? Why, to pizza, taco, and burger fast-food joints of course. I can still tell you what I had for school lunch 50 years later since the menu did not change from week to week for four years. Monday was hot dog day, Tuesday mac and cheese day, etc. All the food was quite bland but, like my mom said when she gave us kids a bowl of warm milk with chunks of toast floating in it for dinner, If you re hungry enough, you ll eat it.
Overall, the biggest changes I see in education today are at the college level, what with all the online classes. Personally, I think that taking an online class is to taking a live class what watching a movie is to reading a book: generally a big step down in the quality of the experience.
All of my undergraduate and graduate classes that I took were live, not always lively, but live. I admit my three-hour long Shakespeare class, which met on Wednesday evenings, was a struggle. The professor s voice would drone on at a snail s pace. But I did learn a very valuable lesson from this class: DO NOT TEACH SHAKESPEARE THIS WAY!
Mike Murphy of Pocatello is an award-winning columnist whose articles are syndicated by Senior Wire. He recently published a book titled Tortoise Crossing Expect Long Delays, which is a collection of 100 of his favorite columns. It is available on Amazon.com.