A little hard work never hurt anybody
Where Do We Go from Here?
By Dr. David O’Shields
District 56 Superintendent
This week marks “Homecoming 2019” at Clinton High School. There will be theme days, class skits, and time-honored traditions of a parade and halftime pageantry. No doubt this week will be a lot of fun for those at the high school.
Previous graduation classes with years ending in a “9” will assemble and most likely have reunions. The football game will once again provide the platform for and culmination of Homecoming festivities. As a near lifelong resident of Clinton (save for my time as a student at USC and two years as a teacher in Richland 1), I often wonder what those who left and did not return to work and live see when they come back here to Clinton.
Normally, my monthly columns are positive.
Today, likely I am going to “step on some toes.”
My soapbox’s ready…let the sermon commence.
Lately, I have been troubled, even burdened, by a pervasive sense of apathy, pessimism, and permissive-ism. Terri -- my wife, very best friend and smartest person I know -- and I often have our best weekly conversations on our weekend treks to any point USA (also known as O’ventures). She and I talk about a lot of things, but lately much of our conversation has been about our personal future and the future of our home, Clinton.
She from within the school and I from the outside see Clinton at a crossroads and marvel in disbelief at the deterioration of persistence, hard work, and commitment. Why is often the question?
Granted, the mills are gone but I believe opportunity is present, likely more so than at any other time. A recent social media thread regarding the size of the present Clinton Devil Regiment created a minor firestorm. First, I know the author who asked an innocent question, “Where have our youth gone?” I know him to be a first-rate supporter of ALL things Clinton and especially ALL things Red Devil.
Some took his inquiry as an attack on the band program. I did not.
I took it as a galvanizing question best answered by the three gremlins mentioned above — apathy, pessimism, and permissive-ism. Sure, our community is not as large as it was in the mid-80’s when the comparison picture (of the Devil Regiment) was taken; however, a more detailed comparison of the actual data reveals the student enrollment of CHS in 1987 to be near 1,100 students. Presently we have around 850. This is a decrease of nearly 25%. The corresponding decrease in the size of the band programs is legitimately far, far more than 25%.
Is it the band director’s fault? Not a chance. He is a jewel and an inspiration to our program.
Is it the music? Not a chance. The music is better than ever. What is it? Hold on, I’ll get to that in a minute.
Let’s look at the football program. We currently stand at 1 – 3 with Homecoming around the corner. A recap of the numbers of the 1987 team was 38 compared to 41 in 2019. About the same! What’s changed, the Coach? Not a chance. He has competence, passion, and vision. The style of play? Hardly. Football has changed in several regards from the 80’s but still remains true to its core.
What am I trying to say? Whose fault is it? Why the apparent decline? Now for the big reveal…
The answer is the famous retort of Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville, “I would prefer not to.” Unabashed apathy, indifference, no desire! Kids are still kids. Unfortunately, parenting strategies, an inordinate and selfish focus on the individual (and not the team) and an insidious acquiescence to “the easy road” have combined to bear a bitter fruit of apathy, pessimism, and permissive-ism. Throw in unrestricted cell phone usage (the opiate of 21st century youth) and you have a majority of under active, inactive, and/or entitled students. Parents too often fight their children’s every battle and defend their children’s every action even when specified behaviors are wrong. I have seen this parent behavior more and more and I can promise you such conduct was not the norm when I was young.
Yet the irony of ironies remains: Never has the chance to be involved in something been better than the present. Yet the easy road is to remain on the sidelines. Better to condemn than to commit. Better to scorn than to sacrifice. Such behavior is often most on display by the very adults whom the children look up to.
Band becomes too hot, football too demanding! And the list goes on and on. In fact, for the first time in over 30 years, Clinton High School did not field a Science Olympiad team last year at state. And they were the defending state champion!!
There are many (in fact MANY) musically inclined students who could easily fill the rosters of the marching band and there are just as many students walking the halls who could make an immediate impact on the gridiron. But they don’t.
For us to succeed in this little corner of the universe we call Clinton, there must be a recognition that we have met the enemy and we are it. An inordinate number of students miss school, come late to school, and fail in school. Who’s to blame? The teachers? Why not? They have been blamed for everything else so there is no wonder we have a staggering teacher shortage. The administration? Sure, they have it out for “my child.”
Not a chance.
Thirty-eight years of experience show me a clear template of the skills students need to be successful. And every template requires hard work and a good attitude.
Every single time.
Where do we go from here? As I stated in the beginning of this article … it’s all about the H-O-M-E. Rather than make excuses for little Johnny or Susie, stand by the teacher. Set limits and expectations … and have consequences when children don’t follow or cross over them.
We in education MUST have the support of the parents. We must have the support of the community. We must have a “homecoming” where parents have high expectations for their children, encourage their children to get involved in something larger than themselves, provide their children the chance to learn from a mistake rather than rescuing them from it, and understand a little “hard work” never hurt anyone.