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Carrol Vertrees: We might need lessons in how to teach our kids

Carrol Vertrees

Carrol Vertrees

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Updated: December 26, 2012 6:15AM



Miss Ada was a great first-grade teacher. She quickly recognized my amazing academic acumen (I made that up).

She noticed that when I was at my desk reading about Peter Cottontail and other fine characters I did not move my lips!

When I read in front of the class, though, I moved my lips a bit — look, I was no British actor.

Miss Ada boosted me to the second grade, after a month. (Second grade was on the other side of the room.)

I remember that Peter Cottontail was sent to bed without his blackberries and cream because he kept hopping into his neighbor’s yard even after being warned. There is a moral there — he was punished. I like to think of that as a non-biblical parable. A rabbit acting like a normal human kid.

I thought of that one on Election Day when the state school chief, Tony Bennett, got himself sent to the principal’s office — actually he got fired and a big teacher vote helped do it. Will Glenda Ritz do any better? That depends on how we define the word “better.” We can hope.

Apparently Bennett and Our Man Mitch (the guvner, you know) did too much too fast to suit teachers. Linking teacher pay to test scores was not popular, for example.

Now is the time for teachers, principals, parents, legislators and, yes, maybe some students, to get serious about healing whatever it is that ails our school system. The changes that Bennett brought in did cure some sad cases of apathy. He deserves a high mark for that.

Our school curriculum stuff keeps changing, which sometimes is good. For a spell, handwriting-penmanship was required. I hated it. When the requirement was dropped, some purists — I forget where they came from, maybe out of the woodwork — feared that our system was badly damaged. I have always thought that handwriting should be required in med school, if not for regular kids.

I remember that some educational “experts” thought the word “evolution” should not be mentioned in biology courses. And I recall that somewhere, probably Texas, teachers said they would not ask students for opinions because they were told that this would deny absolute right and wrong.

I read once that a teacher said, “I won’t use things where a kid has to make a judgment.” How about that? Many textbooks fed our kids pablum instead of thoughts with muscles. Maybe some still do.

We have walked many crooked miles away from such nonsense, I hope, and I think that the Hoosier system was never that bad.

The big question should be just how good our system can be. I don’t know much about modern textbooks, but I do sense that writing and reading are not big stuff like they were in my days long ago. Peter Cottontail could not Twitter or tweet or do Facebook things, but I can’t either. But I can read and spell. And converse.

Making our schools match the changing times is a challenge, requiring some teamwork.

The election did not solve anything, but it probably made some folks feel better. What now?

Well, when the election afterglow fades, the objectors to what has been done had better come up with something good.

If they don’t step up in a united effort, soon, they won’t deserve their blackberries and cream.

Read my old lips.



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