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An education journey begins

From this perspective

Education and schooling, at present and during the past six months, has seen temporarily an abrupt and catastrophic change. This change, due to the current serious virus situation, has had a dramatic impact upon students, parents, teachers, other school personnel, as well as the entire public.

With grateful appreciation, we highly commend all those who have had to plan, organize, and adjust to the over-whelming responsive changes impacting schools today. We salute you!

Our column today, will take a brief look at schooling and the significance of education through the eyes of more “normal”and hopefully soon to be again more desirable and healthful community conditions.

Education is an exciting adventure. Each school year, typically late August or early September, there arrives a new generation of young children entering school for the first time. In fact, there are approximately 3 million fresh new faces in the United States arriving at the schoolhouse door as kindergartners or pre-kindergartners, some holding fast to the hand of one or both of their parents or guardian. At the same time, there are approximately 72 million individuals of all ages, continuing their formal education in both public and private institutions of learning in the United States. There are a wholesome variety of personalities and backgrounds in our schools today. And, at the same time, there is an array of fascinating learning adventures in store for all learners.

A major statutory requirement in schools today is for educators to assure that all students are educated according to the defined curricular guidelines. Minimally, the stated curriculum serves as the bedrock guide for what is to be done in our schools; but that, we believe, is only the beginning. From that standpoint, schools should strive to lead and encourage each individual student to become all of that which she or he is capable of becoming. Learning at any level is a liberating experience; it has been said “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” And truly, that is the essence of learning.

It is our view that good schools should strive to expand the horizon for each learner. As we see it, on the emerging frontier in society … some of the finest agricultural endeavors, buildings, highways and bridges are yet to be built. And some of our students of today will be tomorrow’s builders. Some of the great masterpieces in the arts are yet to be created and some of our students today will create them. Some of the most needed human services are yet to be developed in the sciences, engineering, and medicine and many of our current students will undertake in that endeavor. And many of our current young people have the potential to lead in these and other initiatives. In fact, there will be many yet unidentified areas of societal need, which will be required of today’s students to fulfill in the years that lie ahead. We believe that some of the potential leaders of the future are in our classrooms today. As a point of fact, skills in good leadership are essential in any modern society. There are times when a good leader becomes the follower and where the follower also may assume a leadership role. Developmental leadership skills need to be stressed in our schools today. And speaking of leadership development, if ever there was a time when students have a need during these stressful times … that time is NOW … for our students to have health and physical education instruction in our schools . In fact, physical education and leadership go “hand-in-hand.”

We believe that good schools must strive to develop within each individual a mastery of the essential skills and conceptual understandings that exist within the culture. In addition, a respect for the work ethic must be all encompassing in the academic and extracurricular programs. And further, we must strive to reinforce within the school life of the learner that identified inappropriate actions carries with it appropriate consequences. There needs to be an emphasis which will generate a desire for continued learning, self-discipline, self-improvement and self-development throughout life. And the development of a positive self-concept and an appreciation and respect for others must be incorporated within the curriculum. And finally, school must strive to assist each student to find a level of satisfaction in doing and performing to the best of his or her ability in all that she or he undertakes.

Educating our youth is a complex and difficult task that carries with it a heavy burden of responsibility. Our schools have a complex task in light of health conditions, economic, legal, and public policy issues. However we, as a responsive public, have a responsibility to make sure that the “best” happens in the educational life of our learners and that our schools are a safe, healthy, and wholesome place in which to learn and in which to teach. The schools and the teachers cannot do it alone. It takes a close harmonious team of the school AND the home to bring out the best within each learner. And truly then and only then, we will come closer to achieving the essence of these words “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” To be sure … education … is indeed an exciting, dynamic, creative, and wholesome experience. When all is said and done, may this school year turn out to be a most positive, productive and pleasing learning adventure for all!

Together, as a community of citizens of all ages, we can help to make that happen!

Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is a resident of Gowanda and Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus SUNY Fredonia.

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