Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Sun, 25 Aug 1996 08:48:32 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Random Thoughts: Learning Fundamentals

It was an interesting walk this morning. When I walk the dark, quiet streets, I take myself out of sight, away from where things that are happening, where shadows hide threat and exposure, and the day's sounds have yet to echo, out of the line of fire. The pre-dawn streets are free from clogging traffic. They're a place to shake things out, where I turn on the fluoroscope to my soul, where I can listen for the sounds and look for the signs and signals that stir my emotions and freely express my inner voices.

Yet, I was thinking about Friday afternoon when outer voices were trying to shake me, when I was in the spotlight, on the spot, exposed, in someone's sights, under fire.

It was about 2:00 p.m. The sunlite campus was almost as quiet as my pre-dawn streets. We're between quarters and the University is nearly a ghost town. The internet had been off-line for a few days as our computer people were upgrading the University's system, and I was beginning to experience withdrawal pains of isolation. I was in the office starting to prepare for my fall quarter classess. Then, the telephone rang. I picked it up with a smile on my face expecting to hear once again my beautiful, mysterious, and exciting Susan with some soft, enticing, whispered sweet nothings. We had been bantering back and forth for the past few days like two teenagers experiencing puppy love as we continued to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.

But, the sound at the other end of the receiver was loud and sour instead of soft and sweet. If it didn't prove to be harmless, it would have conjured up images of demonic hoods instead of angelic wings.

"Why don't you go back where you came from and stop bothering us with your nonsensical ideas about our schools," the nameless voice barked and hung up.

I hadn't taken my hand of the receiver then a series of other nameless calls came in rapid fire:

"Make no never mind with all that other new-fangled stuff. Just teach them the 3Rs. They need to learn the fundamentals."

"It's people like you who don't believe in the fundamentals who are destroying this country."

"All that other fancy stuff you wrote about is useless crap."

"Stop your poor-mouthin'. We have to have standards in our school!"

"You attiackin' us good folk won't do no good. You one of them socialist people?"

"We don't need New Age people like you spreading your unholiness."

"We don't need people like you hereabouts ruining our childrens' lives."

"You're tearing down our community's future....."

"If you don't like our schools, move away!!"

Just a few minutes of noise and then it was back to silence. I guess someone had a meeting of some sort and the people got around to discussing my letter to the editor which had appeared last week in our local newspaper and stood in line to call me.

What did I write? Nothing sufficiently subversive or corrupt to burn a cross on my front lawn. Responding to some comments made by our new Superintendent of the city scool system that were quoted in a newspaper article, I said that the work of the teacher must go far beyond merely preparing the students for the workplace and that our schools must be more than testing factories.

One of the callers did wait long enough to allow me to say that I'm not a devotee of the New Age movement and I do believe in students learning fundamentals.

And, I do. I believe that students must learn their 3Rs--figuratively in higher education. And, I set high educational standards. In fact, I think the standards I impose on both my self and the students are both much more basic and yet much higher and more demanding than merely the rote training of students in the basic "how to" skills of the 3Rs.

I believe that teaching the literal or figurative 3Rs don't mean a thing if we educators are not centrally concerned with the students' character and the kind of people they will be, and don't simultaneously address the issue of how and to what ends the students will use those skills once they leave our schools. The educational standards I impose demand that I as an educator struggle to help ALL students--as partner with them--find the confidence in their ability to learn; instil or increase their desire to learn; increase their capacity to learn; instil in them a love for learning; help create a sense of and joy in learning; guide them into becoming vigorous, independent, self-directed, self-motivated learners; help them discover the adventure, excitement, and accomplishment in the uneasy process of growth and development; help each of them discover and honor his or her uniqueness and value; help them become compassionate human beings with a tolerance for others, a commitment to others, and a respect for the dignity of others; and finally help start them walking on the road of becoming thoughtful, contributing citizens and community leaders.

After the telephone stopping ringing, I wrote another letter to the editor.

Make it a good day.


Louis Schmier  (912-333-5947)
Department of History                      /~\    /\ /\
Valdosta State University          /^\    /   \  /  /~ \     /~\__/\
Valdosta, Georgia 31698           /   \__/     \/  /     /\ /~      \
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                          -_~     /  "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\
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