What is an education?
To many, an education is receiving a high school diploma, going to college, receiving a degree then begin working in a profession which one has earned through studies. But this is not necessarily true.
All parents have dreams and goals of their child being successful in school and in life. Some will graduate from high school, some go on to college and some will start work after graduation. We are seeing more and more of this goal dissipating. More and more young adolescents and teens, both male and female are dropping out of school. Some may ask why is this so? Some may say it starts in the home. It is not all of the school’s responsibility. Though there may be truth to both of these statements, a large number of children are not succeeding in our school system.
I was visiting an elderly black male one day in a nursing home. He asked me, “Ma’am, what is an education?” I thought for a moment in silence. I looked at him and he said, “Ma’am, it ain’t but one word.”
My response was, “I don’t know.”
The elderly man stated, “It’s an understanding. If you ain’t got no understanding, you ain’t got no education.”
Is that what the children in the school system are like today, a lack of understanding?
That brief conversation with that gentleman made a lot of sense, and I have carried it with me throughout the years.
Not all children learn the same and not all children are academically inclined. So, one may ask, how is our school system set up to see that children who are not academically inclined to be successful? Does the school system provide just one way of teaching for their students or are they being innovative and creative for the children who just do not seem to be “catching on or learning” that one textbook way? The children who do not appear to be learning in the classroom; are they tested to see if they have learning disabilities? If a child is seen to have a learning disability, after testing, what plan is written and method of teaching is provided by the school? Some children may learn through visuals, some may require one-on-one or small groups, some orally. Through the years, I have had conversations with parents where they had been told by their child’s teachers, “Oh, your child is not trying hard enough, or they are just not paying attention.”
If the school system is not flexible and adaptable to individual needs, then what happens to those students who “just don’t seem to get it”? These students begin to fall behind, become frustrated or disinterested, begin to act out, don’t want to go to school any longer and often times drop out. The child develops low self esteem, feels they are not as bright as the other students and usually quits. Parents become so frustrated, they allow their child to get a GED or just drop out.
It’s not that these children are not as bright as the others in the classroom, they just learn differently. Often times, these children are very bright and have above average IQs.
What does this do to our community and our society? What other ways of teaching does the school system provide for these students who are not academically inclined and who have difficulty learning the textbook method so they may be successful and have a feeling of accomplishment?
Whatever happened to the distributive education program in high school? The shop program where the young students learned mechanics and carpentry? What about home economics where young students learned the basic skills of cooking and sewing? These are life skills individuals can learn to enhance their opportunities to be successful in society.
One may ask, why do I write this? I have lived it within my own family, and though there were many challenges for all of us, today my child has a very successful business.
A quote to reflect on is, “If a man is called the street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all of hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” — Martin Luther King.
The school system should have programs of trade that will teach these students ways of being successful in life. These trades do not necessarily need to start in junior high or high school. Once the child is seen to be struggling, the school system should be “tapping” into areas of likes and interest of these children and the way they learn to assist them in being successful.
Remember, an education is only one word, an UNDERSTANDING.
Deanna Hennington is a Natchez resident.