Thursday, February 18, 2010

We Need Jesse Stuart, Right Here, Right Now

I was reading The Thread That Runs So True again recently.  As I read this novel, a couple of Jesse Stuart's thoughts hit home.  He discussed the inequalities of education in eastern Kentucky in the early 20th century.  As a teacher in a district dealing with a building levy failure, and facing the challenge of getting an income tax levy passed again, I couldn't help but wonder how we could have come so far, but have so far to go.

In this autobiography, Jesse Stuart tells of his life as a school teacher in rural Kentucky in the 1930-40's. The book focuses on his efforts to make positive changes in education and the  influence good teachers can have on their students. Many of the stories are funny, others a little sad as he tells of the challenges his students face to become educated.

He states:
I couldn't understand why a child born in the city or town should have a better education than a child born among the valleys or on the hills.  Why shouldn't a boy at Sassafras, Kentucky be as well educated as a boy in Boston or Manhattan?  It seems to me, the democratic public school system needed some democratic reforms. 

As I read this, I thought about the 100 year old building that my students come in to every day.  The one where they walk down three flights of stairs to the basement to go to the bathroom.  Where the floor in the gym has broken tiles and waves like the ocean on a breezy day.  While in every surrounding district, in every direction, student go to school in brand new buildings, with large rooms, and every convenience.

Stuart also says:
I love the state of Ohio because the people move.  They do things.  They don't wait.  They believe in progress.  And at this time it was debatable whether Ohio or California rated tops in the nation's schools.

I love teaching at Laurelville. The teachers I work with are unbelievably dedicated.  The staff wants to be here. And the students are absolutely the best.  They work hard and achieve with amazing success.  

But, after reading Jesse Stuart's stories from 70, 80, and even 90 years ago, I can't help but wonder, where is the equality in education?  Why do students all over the state and the country have new buildings?  Why do students in so many other schools have the latest technologies?  Do the students of Laurelville deserve any less?