Readin’, Writin’, Arithmetic…Butch Has Some Ideas

Do you recall the subjects you took in high school? Everyone had to pass the required courses of biology, English, basic math, social studies, etc., but some of us were placed in the “college prep” curriculum…and took subjects such as physics, chemistry, trigonometry, and calculus, just to name a few. These came in handy when I attended Purdue, but I never really used the knowledge later in life. I also took Latin, which was the only language course offered. It actually was beneficial to understanding the meaning of words of many languages, but unfortunately I never met any Romans to discuss the triumphs and tribulations of Julius Caesar.

One class that was practical was typing, although I never learned to “touch-type.” Yes, sorry, Mr. Inskeep, I admit it…I cheated and looked at the keys, but could still type around 45-50 words a minute. A few boys took shop class (i.e. Industrial Arts), and I would have taken this if my schedule had allowed it.

The basic subjects that are taught today haven’t changed much in the last fifty years. But the WAY things are taught has changed in SOME schools. Many parents are more worried about what they may have to “unteach” their kids when they come home…a multicultural curriculum which is “inclusivity-insistent,” diversity-sensitive, and dripping with progressive-liberal-thinking. Many students can list every injustice and every perceived fault of American society, but have never read the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. According to a recent poll, almost one-half of all young adults believe socialism is a good thing! Their motto…”Everyone is equal in the world. Rich people should give their money to the poor. The government can correct all of our society’s ills and the world’s problems for your benefit by using YOUR money. Then everyone will be happy and contented and nice to each other.” OK…sure thing…Sorry, kiddos, not going to happen.

When I taught 5th, 6th, and 7th grade social studies, all of my students were required to memorize the Equality clause of the Declaration of Independence,

the Preamble to the Constitution, the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem, all 50 states and capitals, all of the Presidents (in chronological order), the Gettysburg Address, and also label on a map the countries of Europe and Asia. Yes, it was difficult for some students, but they kept at it until they could do it…and they were so proud when finished! These are important things to know, not to mention the fact that memorization skills are vital to brain development.

While math and English are still considered the two most important subjects to master, perhaps schools could make a few other classes mandatory, such as:

1. Personal finance…basic day-to-day topics such as banking, loans, credit cards, insurance, investments, protection against fraud, etc. Most kids today have no idea how to handle money responsibly. Perhaps they should be taught that saving is a good thing!

2. Shop class…Yes, both boys and girls should learn how to use their brains and their hands to make/repair things. Woodworking, metalwork, construction, electricity, auto maintenence, and using various tools. They should also learn how to change a tire and do simple home repairs.

3. Home economics…Here again…for both boys and girls at least two semesters. Learn about nutrition and healthy foods, cooking, baking, sewing and textiles, child development, taking care of younger kids, budgeting, etc.

Other mandatory topics might include first aid, self-defense, and local laws. I also believe driver education should be mandatory and be paid for by the schools. Many schools still have drug and alcohol education, but the results vary. Evidently they are not doing much good. In the most extensive study ever done, 5th grade students who had taken D.A.R.E. had higher drug-use rates when they reached the 12th grade than those who did not take the course.

With the way our society is nowadays, I would also suggest students take courses in how to manage their time, how to accept failure and learn from it, and how to survive WITHOUT technology. A debate class, stressing facts, and not just personal opinion, would also be good.

It’s a much more complicated world in which kids grow up today, compared to how I grew up in the 1950s and 60s. Many times students have not been taught to appreciate our history, American values, and the freedoms we all have. With regards to practical skills, I learned a lot of useful and common sense things from growing up on a farm. However, sad…but true…I never learned how to wash and dry a load of clothes until four years ago (at the age of 70)…and then I forgot to put in the laundry soap!…OOPS!

John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 32 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.