We need stories because suggestions, rules and commandments ultimately require human verification. They are ethereal until demonstrated by human individuals in plausible situations that are representative. And when a lesson is demonstrated in a story, it becomes more believable. The more widespread the message is carried, the more it is accepted. Stories do exactly that. Through the story, we meet the individual or individuals and learn the circumstances they face and see suggestions, rules or commandments satisfactorily implemented in real life situations. In the religious realm, there have been many stories written in days of yore and handed down from generation to generation. The story and message may have been chipped in stone, printed on bark or in some fashion brought forth for succeeding generations. And thus, stories live on. Storytelling is so important in education. Children who have come from homes with parents who enjoy reading, have reading materials in the home, have been read to and given such materials, come to school considerably more ready to learn. Special education materials and efforts can help other children to attempt a catch up in school, but as the old saying goes: “The individual that starts the race a lap behind, even by hook and crook, is able to move just as fast as the winner comes in a lap behind.” This little ditty by Strickland Gillilan has been verified to me many times during my 41 years of public education. You may have tangible wealth untold, Caskets of jewels and coffins of gold. Richer than I, you can never be, Because I had parents that read to me. It may have been the mother, father or siblings, or a combination thereof who gave the student that extra start, but the differences in scholastic achievement are rarely overcome by public education. Schools often are blamed for not bringing these late starters up. More money would help make more time available with fewer students in class. How much time can a teacher provide for each pupil in a class of 30? We claim to have equalized funding of public education. That is true to an extent, but considerable differences exist. Poorer public school districts are still less funded. To equalize, many wealthy districts would receive no aid. What wealthy district voters would support that? In these districts where there is less money per student, the sad story repeats itself year after year. That sad story repeats itself generation after generation. The story, when money is such an important factor, goes on and on. We can talk the talk about bringing about positive changes, but without additional funding to fully equalize educational opportunity that old beat will go on. Other changes are helpful and make positive improvement. During the years that I was a superintendent in Hamilton, Mont., we brought parents in prior to the years their students would begin school. Teachers gave them suggestions to get their students off to a better start, both now and later when they began school. The year before their child was old enough to go to school, I would call attention to it. Schools who could start early by age, but were much less mature, face a more difficult role. I would call their attention to the maturation factor once again and advise them to give their child the advantage of age when starting school. Coaches would have liked to have the opportunity of physical development as well, but we thought athletics was already highly touted. We were dealing with academic abilities here.
Bernie Hughes, Ed.D, is a retired educator who resides in Superior. He can be reached at bernie3024@ centurytel.net.