“Educating our children is serious business.”
These words of Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell reverberated throughout the Community Room of Phillips College's Fine Arts Center last Thursday evening. While Kimbrell's keynote address at the 77th annual Chamber of Banquet was not totally filled with doom and gloom, there was a sense of urgency he stressed regarding the status of public education in Helena-West Helena and Phillips County.
Pushing community support, Kimbrell stated firmly, “We have a responsibility that every child in Phillips County has access to a quality education.”
I take great pride in reporting that several members of the business community stepped up to the plate to provide a helping hand. Some businesses and industries agreed to adopt specific schools in the county. Some individuals agreed to help by reading and tutoring youngsters. Others simply said, “We will do whatever we can.”
The public is beginning to adhere to the old African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
America, Arkansas and Phillips County, however, have not always had serious education problems. A whole generation of Americans attended classes in a 1-room schoolhouse and went on to become doctors, lawyers, bankers and great businessmen and women. Today, we have the greatest amount of technology available – literally at our fingertips – in the history of this great nation, but yet many of children can't seem to master the fundamentals of the three R's – reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic.
Too much of the blame has fallen on the shoulders of teachers who are being asked to bear the burdens of things that simply aren't getting done at home. That's right – home. Teachers are being required by some parents to be “glorified babysitters” and at the same time mold those youngsters into great scholars. When is America going to wake up and start holding mommas and daddies accountable in the education process?
Before I was school age my mom read to me. She took me to the library and I checked out books and sat on her lap and learned what the words were from looking at the pictures. My mom, dad and brother helped me with my homework after I became school age.
Lots of youngsters today, don't have the advantages I had. Many are children of children themselves. Grandma and grandpa are struggling to hold onto work and financial support themselves and many children are left to fend for themselves. Even the so-called responsible parents today get involved with the kids' ballgames but never lift a helping hand with a science project or book report.
Once upon a time, the school was the center or hub of activity in almost all communities – even in most big cities. Plays, open houses and PTA meetings drew large groups of parents. My second grade teacher introduced a special unit on “Community Helpers.” Parents of the students were invited to spend a few minutes in the classroom explaining their life's occupation.
Page 2 of 2 - I recall sitting there proud as a peacock when my dad came to school to talk about being a postman.
Mom was always involved in helping out with class parties and other projects. My mom and dad were part of my education process. Sometimes, I felt like they went to school with me.
Many local businesses were involved with the schools. The local banks encouraged youngsters as young as the first grade to establish a “savings account” and nearly every business in town bought an ad in the high school yearbook. The local businessmen knew the future of the community depended on what the schools turned out.
Perhaps we are about to witness what Hoffinger Owner Doug Hollowell described at the Chamber banquet as a revival – a return to the basics when family and communities worked hand-in-hand to generate the best education possible.
As editor of The Helena World I would like to respond to the Chamber's challenge to get involved in education by helping our youngsters get a grasp of current events by getting them more involved in reading the news from a variety sources whether it be newspapers or news Web sites.
Parents, I encourage you to get more involved with your child's studies. Help them with their homework, get involved in their school projects and attend their school's functions. Open up the lines of communication. You'll be glad you did.