Since beginning my career in education more than 10 years ago, I realized early on this noble profession has its share of critics. I feel compelled to respond to The Augusta Chronicle's editorial July 24 titled "Far from adequate."
The Chronicle continually makes comparisons of Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School to other schools in Richmond County. I realize the staff at Davidson encourages its students to strive toward excellence, but the assumption that other schools in Richmond County are "unable to reach" any acceptable level of adequacy is unfounded.
When speaking to people who advocate the school system running as a business, I often use the anecdotal story of the blueberry farmer. This farmer realizes he must plant and produce wonderful blueberries to have a profitable crop. When selecting the blueberries to be sold, he must discard any that are not of the best quality.
LIKE THIS FARMER, Davidson selects the best students through a selection process examining indicators of past academic success. I commend Davidson and other magnet schools for the job they are doing. I must, however, inform you public schools in Richmond County cannot select who comes through our doors. We willingly take every child as they are, and attempt to create an environment in which he or she can learn.
This talk of inadequate schools has made some teachers and school administrators question their ability to reach those some say cannot be reached. I have conversed with teachers from schools where every child comes to school ready to learn. I have, on the other hand, seen children come to school from homes where they are physically, mentally and sometimes sexually abused. If Abraham Maslow's theory of the hierarchy of needs is any indicator of future success, the job teachers do every day is commendable.
Since the early years of the Reagan administration and the publishing of A Nation at Risk, the prominent 1983 study on education, the public school system's reputation has taken a political beating. We cannot continue to compare schools with different missions; we must find solutions to our problems by realizing some of the things that we have done do not work. We must also require all stakeholders in public education be held accountable.
WE MUST ALSO begin to realize the faulty concept of No Child Left Behind. Will all children learn to read? No. I have watched children with mild to moderate intellectual deficits attempt to take the state mandated Criterion Referenced Competency Test. I have watched these children cry out in frustration. Is there something wrong with this? Yes. Are all aspects of No Child Left Behind bad? No.
While I commend The Augusta Chronicle for facilitating discussions about the future of Richmond County schools, I ask that all interested parties come together in a spirit of brotherhood and work to correct those things that are wrong with public education. Comparisons are too simple. We must begin to find solutions by thinking outside the box.
(The writer, a Williston, S.C., resident, is a seventh-grade language arts teacher at East Augusta Middle School. He also is a doctoral candidate at South Carolina State University, where he is studying how crime in Augusta affects education in Richmond County schools.)