Lee Pitts: Self-taught
April 22, 2011
Just my luck, I missed out on two of the greatest concepts in education: the one-room schoolhouse and homeschooling. Me? I was too busy going to school to get a great education.
My friend, Russell Wyatt from South Dakota, recently wrote me an eloquent letter about attending a one-room schoolhouse with eight grades, one teacher, a barn for the horses you rode to school, no dictionary, two outdoor toilets and from as few as three students to as many as 20. Talk about getting individualized instruction! And there were no drugs or assault rifles carried to school by classmates.
Russell started the first grade in 1933 and was taught reading, writing, arithmetic (art and penmanship were taught on Fridays) an average of 80 school days per year! That’s less than half the time that I had to go to school per year. And you got to ride a horse to school! Now you see why I wish I’d have been in Russell’s class. Russell said that the kids didn’t have to go to school if the temperature was ten below zero and you got two recesses per day to go outside and throw rocks at one another. (They raise ’em tough in South Dakota!)
One would make an educated guess that with all the kids lumped into one room and going to school less than half the time that we did that those kids didn’t get much of an education, but then you’d have guessed wrong. I don’t think I’ve ever met a stupid or poorly educated person who attended a one-room schoolhouse. These days school for too many parents is just a baby-sitter to drop your kids off at while you go to work. Perhaps that’s why our kids are amongst the dumbest in the civilized world as measured by standardized tests.
In my day we weren’t trained how to think but how to memorize mounds of information that you can get quicker now days by Googling on your cell phone. I became very proficient in taking true/false and multiple choice tests and guessing what the teacher was thinking, but I didn’t have any room left in my brain for thinking. (When Albert Einstein was asked his phone number he had to look it up in the phone book. He never cluttered his mind with information he could find elsewhere. And he was a pretty bright guy, right?)
In public schools these days the main subject that’s taught is political correctness. Instead of teaching kids how to think, they are taught how to think a certain way. Instead of being asked how to calculate the board feet in a tree students are asked how the spotted owl must feel when his tree is cut down by ruthless loggers. Rather than teaching kids how they’ll calculate their unemployment checks, they’re asked to write a blog about why unemployment benefits should be extended to illegal aliens. They might be asked to draw a sketch of how they want their first tattoo to look, or to translate a rap song in English class. And there is seemingly no failing answer. Instead of flunking a student, which happened all the time in my day, parents are told their kids need to work on their “inappropriate socialization skills” or that “their group integration skills are lacking.” That’s why spelling has to be taught in college.
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I read recently where school days should be the happiest days of your life, provided of course your youngsters are old enough to go. Ha-ha! But that seems to be the attitude of many parents these days. They seem willing to accept mediocrity, even failure, for their kids. But some other parents want more for their offspring and so they’ve taken them out of public schools and are homeschooling their kids. I salute these parents, and just like the those old-timers educated in one-room schoolhouses, in all honesty I can say that I’ve never met a dumb homeschooled child. In fact, they seem way ahead of the curve.
I credit my mother for teaching me how to work, how to think and that the most valuable lessons you learn in life are those that you teach yourself. That’s why I would have loved to have been my own teacher in a one-room schoolhouse, or have been homeschooled by my mother. Granted, my older brother and younger sister and I couldn’t have fielded a very good football team but who knows, I might even have been the valedictorian of my class!