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A Few Thoughts on Education

Much attention is focused on education these days, and rightly so. A good education is important for many reasons. If America is to compete on a global scale, education and training is essential. The world is more complex today than it was only a few years ago. Not only do we need more teachers, engineers, scientists and mathema-ticians, there seems to be a need for persons highly skilled in the field of computer science. As I look at the evolution of the auto-mobile, I am amazed at the bells and whistles that are built into the newer models. Features such as automatic braking systems to make stopping on icy roads easier and safer, cruise control to make driv-ing less tiring and lane drift warnings to make driving safer are all relatively recent developments in automobile engineering. Most cars have air bags for the driver and the front seat passenger. Moreover many feature side air bags as well.
The future will hold even more complicated computer driven fea-tures. Because of the intricacy and complexity of cars and many labor saving devices that have come along in the last few years, there is increasing need for folks to keep them running. Auto tech-nicians, computer experts and other skilled people fill a very im-portant niche in today’s work force.
While there are still some repairs that can be done on cars by the owner or his neighbor, the day of the shade tree mechanic is almost gone. There was a time when with a few wrenches, a pair of pliers, and perhaps some baling wire, almost anyone could get the old family car back on the road again. Education or specialized train-ing is required both for America to compete globally and to keep up with the technology of today and tomorrow.
Students of today are very fortunate indeed to have nice facilities, modern devices that make learning easier and faster, and compre-hensive libraries with the most up-to-date books and teaching ma-terials.
Sometimes it takes comparing the present with the past to fully ap-preciate our educational system nationally as well as locally. To close out this column I want to mention some of my early educa-tion experiences here in Johnson County. I believe many folks my age and older can identify with them as well. My elementary school education was obtained at Dewey Elementary School, a white frame building that stood where the new Dewey Christian Church is now located. I believe I came away from that school with a pretty good level of education for that time. All through my education, I was blessed with great teachers who did their best to instill in their charges a desire to learn, not only in school, but throughout their lives as well. And teaching was done in time-constraining and difficult circumstances.
Dewey School was only one of many schools scattered across the county. In 1922 there were forty-two elementary schools in John-son County. Twenty-two were one-teacher schools. Later, consola-tion greatly decreased the number of schools in the county. Since there was no bus service early on, schools were built in certain lo-cations so that students would be able to walk to school. The school was often the local meeting place as well. Dewey School was heated in winter by a coal burning pot bellied stove in each room. A movable partition separated the “big room” from the “lit-tle room.” The big room housed grades five through eight and the little room had grades one through four. I started school at the age of six. Walking was the primary means for me to get to school, al-though my father sometimes took me to school or brought me home in our 1932 B-model Ford car. Opening windows during the heat of the day was our air conditioning. There were no indoor restrooms but there were outside toilets. There was also a building for keeping coal. Our only sports facilities were two outside bas-ketball goals and a field in front of the school for baseball or touch football. There were few educational tools.
There is much more I could write about my elementary school days, but what I’ve written is indicative of the vast difference in the education of that day compared to that of today in Johnson County. My plea to students of today is be grateful for the oppor-tunities you have to get an education and never stop learning.