A Disservice to Children

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By Lee Kendall

I’ve witnessed more than most in my 20-plus years as a student and 27 years as a teacher.
Some of it good, some of it not-so-good.
Virtually all, well-intentioned.
As a student, I experienced the “open classroom concept” and  “modular” scheduling while growing up in Carrollton.
After the move back to Cynthiana as a high school freshman, we had a traditional seven period day, with “phase-elective” English classes, then had a schedule with a “floating” period, then went back to a six period day.
When I started teaching in the Mason County School District, the middle school was, deja vu, the open-classroom concept again.
I began teaching at Harrison County High School two years later and it was a six period day for a few years.
Then 1990 hit and KERA demanded changes. Block scheduling was created. Four classes a day, everyday, for one semester. Four different classes, every day, for the second semester.
Then I moved to Pendleton County. They had block scheduling also, although slightly different in structure.
There, it was four classes on Monday, four different classes on Tuesday, plus a daily 30 minute “interest session”, for the entire school year.
Back to Harrison County, after four years away, and it was back to a seven period day.
In all that time, the landscape of public education has changed.
The structure of educating students has changed. The way teachers teach has changed. Teaching to that God-forsaken test, what-ever they call it now, definitely has changed.
Students and teachers alike have been troopers through all of this. However, there is one thing that is going on in education, in particular, and in society, in general, that may be a disservice to the youngsters we are supposedly preparing for adulthood.
It is that warm and fuzzy, everyone-deserves-an-award, mentality where self esteem is more important than preparing for the peaks and valleys of life.
Believe me, I am not calloused or mean-spirited, just old-fashioned, I suppose.
As a 20 year old college student I took college algebra.  There were five of us in Miss Esther Compton’s class. We were given problems to do on the chalk board (remember those?).
Miss Compton had blue hair, walked with a cane and put up with no nonsense.
If any of us made a mistake with our algebra problem, she would give a rap on the back of the leg with that cane, and tell us, in no uncertain terms, to find and correct our mistake.
To my knowledge, my self-esteem was not permanently damaged. I did not suffer psychological damage that required therapy.
I was paddled at least once a year, every year I was in school, until I reached high school.
I deserved every one of those spankings. I don’t think I’ve become any kind of violent offender or been abusive to my children or wife as a result of those.
I’m sure it hurt some feelings when kids were picked last in P.E., or for some classroom activity that had separate teams.
I don’t think kid’s lives were ruined because of that.
When I was a kid, the league champions won the trophies. The idea of giving every participant a trophy was unthinkable.
Now, everyone gets a trophy, because everyone deserves a trophy.
I’m afraid we are creating a generation of folks that feel a sense of entitlement, young adults that have never been really allowed to fail.
Young adults that aren’t well-equipped for a boss that expects things to be done right the first time, or that dresses them down for poor performance.
Kids of my generation were often scolded by teachers for poor behavior or classroom performance, like Miss Compton did, with her words and cane.
I don’t think Miss Compton’s teaching style would last long today and I’m not certain that’s a good thing.