VINSON: Rockers understand more than some in education

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Here’s how it was when I was coming up through secondary school: The teacher was the boss. You were given homework assignments and applicable tests.

If you didn’t meet certain standards on those homework assignments and tests, you were given a failing grade.

Ultimately, through the first and eighth grades, at the end of the school year, if you hadn’t performed adequately, you repeated that grade – “sent back,” as it was termed in those days.

When you reached high school and failed to meet the required standards for a class like algebra, you had to repeat algebra.

If you misbehaved in class – acting out, fighting, talking back to the teacher, etc. – here’s what you could look forward to: The teacher snatching you up by the nape of the neck, marching you to the principal’s office, the principal tearing up your tail end with a wooden paddle, and being expelled from school for a certain number of days.

True, if you got a whooping at school and were expelled, there stood a good chance that you would receive a second whooping from your parents when you got home.

For the most part, there was a good level of discipline in secondary schools, and most of the students who graduated from high school had a decent working knowledge of reading, writing and arithmetic.

Granted, our society is one that evolves with each tick of the clock, and with that evolution, there comes inevitable changes.

Here’s an example of a drastic change in today’s school system, as was revealed to me by an elementary school teacher who teaches at a Middle Tennessee school.

Class had begun, and the teacher told the students to get out their homework.

A student replied to the teacher, “F*** you. I’m not going to do my homework, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Of course, the teacher attempted to take action, but guess what?

The same student still is in that same teacher’s class, still misbehaving much in the same manner as described.

On Jan. 8, 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act. Without going into space-consuming detail, the law was designed and enacted to improve education in secondary schools across America – better tests, better teachers, better level of education for the students, you could say.

However, here’s the downside to that law, so my teacher friends tell me: If a teacher sets certain standards for her class and a certain number of students do not meet those standards – fail the class – the teacher is subject to being pulled to the side and issued a veiled threat to tow the line.

Sadly enough, the end product is far too many students with scarily poor academic skills are graduating from high school and being forced on the open job market. Some lack even the skills to operate a cash register and make change at a fast-food chain.

What does the future hold for these young people?

In 1970, the super rock group Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released their legendary Déjà Vu album, which included the top-selling single “Teach Your Children,” penned by Graham Nash.

In terms of education and bright futures for our young people, I find it disturbingly ironic that a group of longhaired rockers were willing to address the issue head-on, while those in decision-making positions are dodging the same issue and collecting a monthly check.

Mike Vinson can be contacted at
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Members Opinions:
November 27, 2011 at 8:22am
I agree with Vinson. Approaching education with the same "politically correct" mindset of a soccer league is a disease that is not going to be easily resolved. When Ashley fails to turn in her homework it can't be brushed aside with a "bad break" or "good job" response or the (everyone gets one) trophy and a (we don't keep score) approach. We can't fake an education nor can we fail to keep score. Educating children is like making an omelete, you can't do it without breaking some eggs and diplomas have to represent a greater level of achievement than a soccer trophy.
November 28, 2011 at 5:31am
very well put bota! Good article Mr. Vinson
November 28, 2011 at 2:20pm
As a society, we are guilty of a sin worthy of the death penalty for herding our children through the school system without making sure they have decent life skills. We shouldn't blame the teachers but we should blame goverment for not giving our teachers what they need to teach the right way. If a student acts out and gets in ttrouble, the teacher should know he has the support of the system. The way it is now, some money hunrgry parent will file a lawsuit aagainst the teacher, and the school backs off and the teacher is left alone to deal with it. That's part of the problem. Vinson is right, all some educators in the system are worried about is getting a "monthly check".
November 28, 2011 at 9:19pm
Shh...I'll be blasted for this...hell, here goes!!...I blame parents...single and married...if we don't get education, drive and hope at home, it's too much for teachers to do it for us...for the record, I 'm no teacher....don't blame the government for failure...Lord knows, the government has tried...
November 29, 2011 at 9:09am
Canalou, I completely agree with you when you said that a child's education starts at the home with the parents. but our system is so out of whack that it's gone beyond that.Our teachers don't have the same discipline in the classroom like they did years ago. Kids get away with murder in the school these days and many times teachers back off taking actions for fear of losing their job. It's like a domino effect. The student acts up. The teacher takes it to the principal. The principal takes it to school superintendant. The parents threaten to sue all the above. Everyone backs off - I seen it happen more than once. The reason they back off is they dont want to put their job at risk. They need that "monthly check".
December 01, 2011 at 11:26pm
And....I wish every law maker and power to be who haven't been in a classroom in yrs. who devised this stupid evaluation process...could spend a week in any classroom. My first teaching job was in Marshall Co. at an elementary school back in the mid 90's. The principal asked me if I wanted a wooden paddle like the other teachers have received. I thought he was so backwards and said no thank you. Well, those kids knew who had the paddle and who didn't have it. The next yr. I got the paddle..and paddled several students. Only regretted paddling, one, however. Still have it and keep it in view for my children to see at home and have used it. They love looking at all the children's name written on it who got paddled. Backwards....nope. I learned that lesson fast!
December 02, 2011 at 8:29am
Mr. Vinson.. How did you learn the "secret": Everyone passes today in all of our public schools in Rutherford County - and perhaps most everywhere!! By the fourth or fifth grade, students learn this ( They are NOT stupid!) and forever thereafter they know they do not have to work to pass.
Because of this practice, we are ALL the losers. After a teaching career in public school classrooms of more than 40 years, I can assure EVERYONE that students, more times than not, will rise to the occasion. When they are "given grades", they have no concept of appreciation for a job well done - for the establishment of a good work ethic. This creates a lifetime practice and is sad for them and for us. And, for the life of me, I cannot know when or how this all started!?
But it CAN be stopped. .. All it will take is one school system.. perhaps even one principal in one school.. to draw a line in the sand.. and say and MEAN it, "This MUST be accomplished before you pass to another grade or class. It will take two or three years of adjustment; all staff must pull together and parents must be realize that it will happen. Those schools that have labeled all classes as "honor classes" (What? Our school have a student who is NOT an "honor student"!?) must wise up! I hate to be negative, but I doubt I'll live to see it, but I do believe that one day it will happen.. and we'll all be better for it!

Steve Cates
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