News and Tribune

September 16, 2013

CUMMINS: Schools are a thing of the past

Local columnist

We don’t need schools. They’re too expensive and our kids ain’t learning nothing. The Internet is cheaper, but searching for anything you want to know online is time-consuming, leaving you little time to connect with a higher power that never needs a password. Life is the best teacher, or was until civilization went digital. The problem with going digital is that humans have become automatons. Do not teach a child how to fish, but teach him or her how to live life in a vast cyberspace vacuum.

We do need schools. You can’t learn everything on the Internet, such as how to make love and friends face-to-face, how to make a living and live life without staring at a screen day, night and in bed or the bathroom. If everyone works at a computer, who will grow food or build cruise missiles? Yes, children need to go to school to learn basics, not how to crawl into a digital hole like the cavemen did. It took eons for them to see the sun.

Back in my day, school was important unless we were needed on the farm learning how to work. Food was more important than learning how to spell words or divide fractions. Our little country schools provided all we needed to prepare us for the future, which never looked bleak. The “basics” opened the door, and you could go on to high school, learn some English, science, math and history and be set for life. Back in those days, you often heard, “He was the first one in our family to graduate from high school.” That was back about only 60-70 years ago.

When I was a high school principal, I did everything possible to get Johnny, who couldn’t read, through the graduation line. He ranked at the bottom of his class, but made it through with encouragement and determination. How do you feel ranked at the bottom of anything? Why do we rank human beings like prime steaks? A D- average means you didn’t learn much from books. But it doesn’t’ mean you’re bad, or will never be successful. Some of the Johnnys I remember make me proud. I’ve seen some of them pass the valedictorian in living a good life. Valedictorians have too much pressure on them.

We need to stop leaving too many children behind. Due to all sorts of social and economic factors plus family breakdown, too many children don’t have the opportunity, encouragement, social stability, proper nutrition and health care to succeed in school. Obviously, not all children are academically equipped to pass minimum standards. What’s the minimum standard for living a good life?

 The public rages about how bad the schools are. Let’s grade the teachers and the schools, separate the wheat from the chaff, the brains from the numbskulls, and let the state deal with those dropping along the welfare wayside. Let’s grade the legislators, bureaucrats and politicians instead, separating the chaff from the weeds. 

We claim to educate “all” children. This differs from most other countries, which separate the academically talented students from those who can succeed in other areas. Do we expect all students to pass high academic standards? Do we expect all students to run a 12-minute mile?

I worry about my grandson, who is a junior at one of our floundering high schools. He is a weight lifter training to be a shot putter, apparently placing matter over his mind like I did. Lifting weights is easier than lifting one’s mind. “Hey, Tim, let me see your progress report.” Let me see the congressional progress report? They have a sure-fire plan to educate all Americans, something similar to providing health care for all, don’t they?

 As a Morgan High Raider, I took English, history, agriculture and a little science and math, very little. We practiced basketball the last period, went home without books to milk, feed, eat and sleep. Homework was working our land.

 When does my grandson get to watch his television? I feel sorry for him. He’s making As and Bs in pre-cal/trig, AP English composition, AP U.S. history, German III, astronomy, finite math and physics. I’m not making any of this up. That’s what our floundering high schools offer today, and they’re doing it very well despite how bad they are. If the state could provide programs for all students to be successful at something, no matter the academic level, we’ll begin seeing results. It’s not like establishing a colony on Mars.

— Contact Terry Cummins at