Education levels the playing field for anyone wanting to succeed in life.
I’ve spent my entire life in education. Both private and public. Mostly public. Teaching, administrating, training and leading. I firmly believe in it. And the results it can produce.
Emphasis on can. Parenting, good parenting, is key to making it all work. Parents are the sole proprietors of their children. And their future. When that is abdicated or even slightly ignored, a torrent of disappointments and disasters can ensue. Period.
In May 1972, Alice Cooper released the hit song “School’s Out.” It reached No. 7 on the Billboard chart. But the Bowman household wasn’t allowed to play that song.
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Not on the radio. And certainly not purchased from a record shop! “No more pencils. No more books. No more teacher’s dirty looks.” How times have changed!
My folks thought the message Alice promoted was nothing short of teenage propaganda. And getting an education meant getting a better start at life. Anything that distracted us from that endeavor was — eliminated.
The opportunities for a child to explore, succeed and excel are literally endless today. But people have to be willing to do the hard work. As I tell my own students: Hard work is hard. And there in lies the rub.
Many children today just don’t want to do the very hard work. So educators have to look to parents to help pick up the slack, hoping they are there. Some are. Many are not — often too many.
My brother and I grew up as Army brats. Dad and Mom gave us three choices in life as we neared the end of high school. Go into the military. Learn a trade or skill. Or choose to go to college.
I still think, after all these decades, these three choices are relevant. Very relevant.
Last year my district upped-the-ante by providing parents the choice of year-round schooling in two of our many dozens of elementary schools. The response was overwhelming and very positive from both parents and students. I know this firsthand. I talked to the administrators in those buildings. And my own daughter Brit, who teaches science at one of those schools, has seen impressive growth from her students in just this short time.
Nearly 800 boys and girls grew their school year by 31 days or about five weeks over the summer. When students regress in their reading levels and math computation skills because of a two-month summer break, how is that putting a child’s educational needs first? It isn’t. Not to mention the multiple SPED (Special Needs) students and ELLs (English Language Learners) with their conglomerate of often specific needs and more gains to achieve.
In 1983, when I entered education, I made three predictions. One would be mandatory school uniforms. That hasn’t happened. Yet. The second was extending the school day. That has partly succeeded in various after-school programs for many years. But it’s not required. And there’s a fee to attend. The final choice, and my first, was we would provide year-round schooling to those wanting to move ahead quicker.
That has begun. Finally. I love the concept of year-round schools. And I think its time has finally come if handled carefully. And properly. It’s certainly not for every child and family. And it is not a “one size fits all.”
Becoming educated is the great equalizer. And our district is leading the way in the area for grade-school-age kids to not only stay caught up but far exceed their peers. Other districts should, too.
Rodger Bowman lives in Kansas City, North, and is a middle school administrator and teacher. Reach him at email@example.com.