In regards to Mr. Comer’s Nov. 30 article, “Let’s Get Real World,” I believe that Mr. Comer has the best interest of all our citizens at heart but I would like to point out that I don’t feel it’s always fair to assign all the blame to our school system and its administrators. In my opinion, Mr. Comer addresses an ongoing problem that has lingered in our school system for decades and the problem of which I speak of is low academic expectations by students and parents of Gulf County schools.
Going further, assuming what Mr. Comer is saying is true, our kids are not getting the education they need to compete in today's world. However, I do not adhere to the notion that it is all the school system and faculty's fault. Cutting to the chase, I personally don't believe that this problem will or can be remedied by only our school system. I truly believe that the school system, whether consciously or not, is giving the parents of our children just the amount and quality education they are expecting and supporting.
I would like to think that parents of our students would want to take a “fresh“ look at the quality of the education that their children are getting and lend their lobby and strong support to modifying priorities of our school system's programs with much more emphasis on higher academic standards. This is not to say our educators lack or are not doing a good job, as we have well educated and qualified instructors. I am not talking about doing away with any present activities. What I am talking about is openly raising the celebration of academic excellence, expecting and requiring more from the students with parents fully standing behind our educators in their endeavor to educate our young people. More emphasis must be given to communicating the advantages of obtaining all the education that a student can obtain as well as the career opportunities that will be available to them if they take advantage of their educational opportunities in the Gulf County School system. I know an effort is now being made in this direction but teachers and parents alike must do more.
Gulf County does a great job of supporting extracurricular activities for students such as team sports, R.O.T.C, Boy Scouts, and the like – I am also a supporter of these activities as they are all important to youth development – but the hard truth is, whether we like it or not, these activities most often do not determine a student’s entry into the next level, regardless of their abilities and accomplishments. The fact is, students are primarily judged to be qualified for a position after school, whether it is in the workforce, in higher education or the military, by the amount of education they received and retained while in school. We are not being fair to our children when we pamper them with the notion that just any degree of effort is o.k. and that “ it is up to the teachers to teach you” and that all you need is a diploma. Yes teachers “teach”, but students must commit themselves to learning and parents must commit themselves to supporting this process.
I believe that for the academic standards to be raised in our county's schools, it will take a strong and committed group of parents communicating to our school board what they desire and then giving ongoing and full support. Why not create high achieving schools in Gulf County? What good reason is there not to? It’s just us and our children living here in Gulf County. We can have whatever level of education that we are willing to pursue. Has there ever been a downside to insisting a child gets the best education they can before entering the proverbial, “Real World”? Do we not want to prepare our kids the best we can to deal with the trials and tribulations we know they will face and to be able to compete with their peers all over the country and the world for jobs? But make no mistake about it, the demand on the students as far as homework and out of class study will be significantly greater, but the rewards will be more than worth it. In addition, habits of taking personal responsibility and maintaining discipline in the classroom by students will have to be required by the faculty and supported by the parents if an atmosphere conducive to instructions with higher academic standards is to be taken advantage of.
The fact is, the superintendant, school board, administration and faculty of the school district is going to give our county the school system that the parents and taxpayers demand, will accept and most of all will support. Can anyone blame them? They are working for our county! They live in and are a part of our community. And will all students excel to the same educational levels? No, but they all would have the opportunity and encouragement to accomplish as much academically as they are able to and will work for.
We all want what is best for our children. Every parent wants his child to be well educated and have a good shot in life. But a price has to be paid. That price is first of all having the courage to set high expectations, a commitment to pursue them and the acceptance of the leadership of our school system in implementing a plan that will help every student reach their highest level of academic achievement.
In my opinion, if we started tomorrow it wouldn't be soon enough. The only question is, “What kind of school system do our parents want and what kind of academic standards will they support?” I would hope that every parent would join in and make their desire for higher academic standards known to our school system by telling a school board member or writing a letter to them. I then would then hope that all parents would get behind this process, personally commit to its success by giving their unwavering support to new academic expectations for our students.
For the Benefit of Our Children,
George W. Duren
Port St. Joe