Opinion Columns & Blogs

WALKER: Ten ways our schools have changed

One morning this past week, Janice told me that she had just seen something on TV about how schools had changed in the past few years. Then, she gave me a few examples. The only two I remember were “no more blackboards” and “no more pencil sharpeners.” As I thought about this, I decided that I would like to give my examples, with comments, on this subject.

1. No more blackboards. Indeed, they are gone. Largely, though, at least when it ended it was “no more greenboards.” Funny, even after green was the norm, they were still called blackboards. And, I wonder who dusts the erasers now?

2. Air Conditioning. Those of you who are old enough to remember how hot it sometimes got in May and September really appreciated the air conditioning when it came. Almost everyone, including the teacher, was so lethargic hardly anything was being taught or learned. Thanks, Mr. Carrier.

3. Diversity. Certainly, schools are more racially and ethnically diverse than in the past. But, beyond that, they are more “where are you from” diverse. When I was in school, the vast majority of the students were from Houston County -- many coming from families with deep roots in the county. But, today, our schools have students from all parts of our country and, in many cases, from all over the world. This is a dramatic difference from 50 years ago.

4. Diagraming sentences is passe. Why? Diagraming sentences was how I learned the difference in an adverb and an adjective and what line the preposition went on. Excuse me, on what line the preposition went. If your child’s school doesn’t require sentence diagraming, you should start a protest (isn’t that the way things are now done?) to require it. And, by the way, how can we get young people to stop saying “me and Charlie ... etc.” The “me-ing course” was one of the strongest when my children went to school.

5. Prayer. Prayer to start every day is gone (well, there is still lots of silent praying on exam day). Also, no more chapel programs. Has this banning made things better? You know the answer.

6. Boys don’t bring knives to school. Used to be that probably over one-half of the boys took a pocket knife to school. I never remember anybody getting cut -- on purpose or accidentally. Now, even a plastic knife to spread butter will get you suspended. No knives! No common sense!

7. Automobiles. Probably, Houston County high schools have more cars in their lots than do all the car dealerships in the county. And, they are mostly very nice cars. I was 21 before I ever owned a car. Some of the most fun I ever had was hitchhiking. I didn’t want my children to hitchhike and I wouldn’t stand for my grandchildren to do it. But it was a quite exciting and unpredictable way to get around in the early ‘60s.

8. Paddles. Fessor had one and used it. Later Coach St. John handled this unpleasant business for him. Mr. Cheek had “John Henry,” and every FFA member, except Walton Wood, got a lick (it really, really hurt) from Mr. Cheek and John Henry. I’ve been telling my classmates that Walton was the smartest person in our class.

9. Food. Surely, the food in the lunchrooms has to be better. My most enduring memories of the lunchroom are how hard it was to get those little milk cartons opened (most used their wooden number 2 lead pencils -- which are also gone) and the smell of soured milk. We had 15 minutes to eat and with very few food choices. No wonder the students are so much larger, today. I was a 135-pound quarterback, so I noticed things like that.

10. Computers and technology rule. I guess that’s the biggest change of all. But, you youngsters don’t be too smug about it. Before you know it, what you know will be obsolete. It’ll be about like no blackboards and diagraming sentences. Don’t think so. Just wait, which is what you’ll have to do.

I know there’s lot more. Have fun thinking about them. By the way, I didn’t even mention the death of cursive writing or conjugating verbs.

Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: lwalker@whgmlaw.com.