Friday, September 30, 2016

Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

Ben Franklin, the original Benjamin guy.
I wish I could remember who it was that said you can get a basic education in three years, but let us take a look at Ben Franklin as an example of that. We have a family joke that the answer to almost any Jeopardy clue is almost always “Who was Ben Franklin?”

When I am asked who I would most likely enjoy an afternoon with, it is always Ol’ Ben, the only President of the United States, who was never the President of the United States. Did you know he was the master of self-promotion and a man I admire? Even as a young lad, if he spotted a person of higher station, he would grab a shovel or some tool and begin to work diligently. The person would see him and remark, “What a fine worker that young man is!”

I’ve read a couple of books on the man and it still amazes me that he did so much with so little organized education. “From 1714-1716, Franklin attended Boston Grammar School and George Brownell's English School (for one year each) but he was withdrawn due to the expense of formal schooling (Cambridge Companion). Franklin didn't let this bring him down. Nothing could ruin his eternal drive and passion! Franklin read books and taught himself foreign languages.”*

On his many trips to Europe, he conducted experiments on the tides and currents and that data is still used today. Mr. Franklin was such a learned man, that he is known as the greatest scientist of the 18th century. The bifocal glasses many of us wear were invented by him.  The lightning rods on buildings? Yup, Ben Franklin and he coined the words, battery, positive, negative, and charge in relation to electricity.

Ben’s secret to success was his curiosity and his love of learning. He didn’t waste time with redundant nonsense, like playing video games, texting thousands of unnecessary thumb taps, and watching idiotic reality television and wouldn’t have if they were available. Ben had more important things to think about. Stuff like inventing the US Postal System and starting the first lending library so others could gain access to knowledge.

Ben was an advocate of swimming in a time that only children and shipwrecked sailors did it and seeing a need to propel himself faster, fashioned the first swim fins and this earned him recognition in the International Swimming and the United States Swim Schools Association Hall of Fame. That odometer in your car? Ben, for the most part.

Boy, those 2 or 3 years of school he got sure paid dividends!

I enjoy those political cartoons as much as anyone else and the first one was attributed to our scientist. Even the modern selfie-stick is a descendant of Franklin’s reaching device, as are the clamp sticks used to pick up trash by highway crews. The Franklin Stove became a standard addition to most every home that could afford one and is still used today.

Malcolm X
Now Ben might be the exception, but I don’t think so. I believe an overhaul in our education system is needed. If you read the book Malcolm X, you will see how Detroit Red went from being a nearly illiterate 8th grade drop-out street hustler to an articulate and educated Malcolm X in a few short years in prison. He did this by reading books and like Ben Franklin, was mostly self educated, as was the great educator Frederick Douglass.

As I have written before, my real education began after I flunked the 9th grade. Because we moved constantly, my knowledge of math was disjointed and I became the class clown in my English class, going for the laugh above studies. My teacher flunked me by one point and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Humiliated, I worked through summer and paid for my summer school with those earnings, as my mother simply told me I must, or repeat the grade. By today’s standards this would be considered child abuse.

Frederick Douglass
My teacher started me on the course that I’ve never left. She truly taught me to read, comprehend, and write. The arithmetic came later after I developed a love of learning. I truly believe our educational system is producing cookie-cutter educations that do little to prepare a young man or woman for the hardships of adult life, despite the well intentions of our teachers abilities. We need curriculum that challenges the minds of young people to excel instead of memorizing the same stuff over and over. Give them the proper tools and then make a path for exploration.

Paul Simon sums up my thinking perfectly in the song Kodachrome. "When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it's a wonder I can think at all. And though my lack of education hasn't hurt me none, I can read the writing on the wall." A real shame is most people under the age of 35 don’t even know what Kodachrome was and aren’t curious enough to find out.

Aught plus aught
After a few years of basics, a child should be aptitude tested and funneled toward their natural propensities.  Forget individual quotient testing and help them develop their real potential. We already have enough educated idiots with no common sense and proof of that is in Washington and many corporate offices. When a twenty-two year old “man” has no idea how to change a flat tire or check the oil level in their car motor, something is terribly wrong. Where are the Ben Franklin’s when we need them the most?



Anonymous said...

DDC: What a great column in The Baytown Sun this morning, Bert.
I think that folks are finally coming around to that way of thinking by offering more opportunities for vocational and trade schools. The 'cookie cutter 'degree programs, in a lot of cases are leaving our young graduates with a nice piece of parchment, but no paycheck. Our crafts (welding, carpentry, nursing, process technology, automobile mechanics, and on and on) are dying out, with no one to pick up the reins. Very good reminder of this, brother.

Anonymous said...

BAM: This is my favorite of your writings to date.

Deb Hearn said...

This was a fascinating read Bert. Many facts I did not know.

Deb Hearn said...

This was a fascinating read Bert. Many facts I did not know.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the article Bert, thanks.


Unknown said...

I am so proud to be your Mama.

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