Let#8217;s get back to preparing our youth for the real world

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

I want to talk today about standards of learning. No, not the kind that are being utilized in Virginia’s schools today, but those that I experienced as a child.

I attended public schools in West Virginia during the 50s and 60s, a much different time than today.

Yes, we learned the basics — reading, writing and arithmetic — but our education was much more than that.


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We also had classes in art and music, and something that many

of you older readers will remember — civics.

As for the first two, a block of time was set aside every day for every child — I repeat, every child — to participate.

Our artwork would later hang in the classrooms or even at a school art show for all to see.

I participated in a chorus of some kind, whether it be an entire ensemble or a barbershop quartet beginning in the third grade, and continued that all the way to high school.

In the sixth grade I decided I wanted to play the drums, and began taking lessons. Yes, believe it or not, one must take lessons to learn to play them.

I left the singing behind in high school and put my musical energies into the band and orchestra, where I played every instrument in the percussion family at one time or another.

As for the civics, I can remember learning things such as “How to properly answer the telephone,” and “How to properly introduce people to each other.”

We also learned some life skills such as writing a check and balancing a checkbook and how to prepare for and participate in a job interview.

All of these things came in handy later in life.

My question is, are we still teaching those same concepts in our schools today or are we simply instructing students on how to take a test that will ultimately propel them to the next grade, thus allowing the school system to receive more funding for the number of promotions and graduates?

I remember boys and girls in my classes who didn’t move on with us because they didn’t make the grade — sorry for the pun — in the basics.

Back then, if you could not read, you were not promoted. If your math skills were weak, you were not promoted. If you could not write or diagram a sentence properly, you did not move to the next level, period.

Do they still teach sentence diagramming in school? It required students to participate in the process, to listen in class and to complete their homework assignments.

We hear today about students who cannot read at grade level, whose math skills are weak, and who have not even come close to learning proper speech.

If you don’t believe me, go out and talk to a group of young people today and test it.

And it’s not wonder they can’t speak. With all the electronic gadgets they have at their disposal they don’t have to hold conversations with real people. They can text message each other until the cows come home, or the battery in the Blackberry dies.

The education I had was a good one. When I graduated the “system” was not broken. So, why has it been changed?

I suggest we get back to some of the “old ways” and get there soon.

Let’s teach our children the three ‘Rs,’ but let’s also instruct them on how to be good citizens. Let’s teach them how to survive in the real world, not just how to take a test for promotion.

Unless you are in the military there aren’t too many jobs out there where promotions hinge heavily on a test.

But, if you cannot speak properly, if you cannot handle yourself in a job interview or if you do not know how to communicate, you are pretty much doomed to fail.

Grant is the managing editor of the Suffolk News-Herald. Contact him at 934-9603 or doug.grant@suffolknewsherald.com