ROSE NOLEN: Education used to be the cornerstone of community life

Wednesday, August 31, 2011 | 5:10 p.m. CDT; updated 6:15 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 29, 2011

I remember first days of school kindly. 

I think the main reason my childhood pals and I enjoyed going to school and church is because those two institutions comprised what we considered our social life.


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Nearly all of our outside activities were involved with either or both. Otherwise, our family life was the only alternative.

Without the lure of television, computers, cellphones and automobiles, opportunities for fun almost always centered around what we participated in at school or church.

Whatever extra time we had away from the classroom was usually spent at music rehearsals, play practice or cheerleading. After school we visited each others' homes, attended movies once a week, participated in church choir practice and window-shopped on Saturday afternoons.

School was the only place where we got to mingle with all of our friends. Unless we were sick in bed, none of us were anxious to miss school for fear we would be left out of the action.

I’m glad I grew up when education had a high priority in American communities. I feel truly sorry when I hear children say that they don’t like to read books. I consider the day I got my first library card as my day of emancipation.

Unfortunately, I think television and computers have robbed children of one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Public schools have certainly changed since I attended them. For instance, I was shocked to learn that physical education classes have been discontinued in many schools.

Of course, I don’t know why I was surprised that parents would allow that to happen, even though the public health sector is very concerned about overweight children. I suppose it will be healthcare professionals who will have to fight that battle.

At least there are concerned people in that field who are willing to fight. As for who is willing to battle to save education itself, anyone’s guess would be as good as mine.

Retired educators tell me the schools have been headed to the places where they find themselves today for many years. I guess they could have reversed direction at many points along the way. There have been almost as many theories about what should be done in schools as there are educators.

I suppose Americans will begin to take education seriously again when they see citizens of other countries begin to lead every field of academics. They might figure it out when they find the classrooms of their colleges and universities emptied of foreign students.

Of course, the prevailing belief of many Americans is that this will never happen. Perhaps they need to read about the Titanic again.

As school doors start to open, we can only speculate about how many seniors who show up for their final year will actually walk down the aisles on graduation day and receive a diploma.

One might also wonder whether those who did not receive a highschool diploma last year are still living at home with their parents.

For a lot of us, growing up in a country that offered a free public education and free public libraries was a source of great pride. This meant that all people, no matter their family’s economic situation, had an opportunity to improve their status.

That opportunity offered the hope to millions of Americans that they could indeed gain the knowledge to make for themselves a successful life. In this, and in so many other ways, our sense of values is fading fast.

Our appreciation of civility in the manner in which we deal with other people, our respect for each other’s differences and our ability to withstand difficult circumstances are tied in a real way to the level of our education.

My mother always said that when a person loses his head, he’s lost everything. The same could be said of a good education.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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