By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
“School days, school days
Dear old Golden Rule days
’reading and ’riting and ’rithmetic
Taught to the tune of a hic’ry stick”
But that was then, this is now.”
In 1907 when William Cobb and Gus Edwards wrote “School Days,” it was a simpler and much more respectful time. The Golden Rule was king in the classroom. Classes of 30-plus students were the norm. Teachers demanded and received respect.
Unruly behavior was not tolerated. It resulted in a reprimand—or a trip to the principal’s office for counseling and perhaps a taste of corporal punishment via the rattan (switch). Or even a suspension from school.
But that was the easy part. The rattan may have hurt your pride, but now you had to face the real music: your parents. Their job, one they did well, was to reinforce in your ever-evolving mind the social etiquette you were expected to follow: be courteous and learn.
Lastly, one thing that never appeared on any radar screen: litigation against a teacher or a school because little Johnny or Jane were unfairly treated.
Yes, school has drastically changed since the 1900s through the 1960s.
The turbulence of the ’60s has now come home to roost in our schools. The Golden Rule that once insured order and learning no longer exists. It has been erased by the children of the entitlement-mindset families, families who see nothing shameful in living off the taxpayer.
But worse, these families see absolutely no value in their children getting an education. This leads to disrespectful and assaultive behavior in our classrooms and diminishes the instructional time of those who are there to learn.
Before continuing, let me make one thing perfectly clear: with a few exceptions, it is not the refugee children that are causing this problem. This is because they have an overwhelming appreciation of education, especially those to whom it has been denied. Unlike our domestic entitlement crew, these students could easily thrive in a 40-student classroom.
Next Tuesday, June 14, you will be asked to vote on two questions concerning our schools. Leaving aside my municipal cap as mayor of our great city and donning the cap of a fixed-income retiree with no children or grandchildren in the Lewiston School system and being a property taxpayer, I urge you to vote “Yes” on these questions.
The State of Maine has graciously agreed to build Lewiston a new school to replace the Longley and Martel schools. This will be funded by taxpayers throughout the state. No local property taxes will be used. Thus, the school could be classified as a gift.
Secondly, by this time you have received a flyer from The New Elementary School Building Committee. It requests that the voters approve an additional $2,151,360 for a gym, air conditioning and artificial turf on a baseball/field hockey field. On its face this appears to be nothing more than supplying the schools with non-essential amenities. But what I see is needed economic development.
This money will provide a year-round facility that can be used to teach English to our non-English speaking refugees. Remember, if they can’t speak English, chances are they won’t be employable and unable to fill positions that are needed to keep Lewiston running.
The classrooms could also be used to bring our refugee population up to their class level and further prepare all Lewiston students to enter the job market at good wages (this will be the subject of next week’s column).
Artificial turf will allow us to be competitive in drawing statewide sports events to Lewiston. There is a very positive, can-do attitude running through many of Lewiston’s 40-year-old and younger crowd who wish to make this city a showplace. They are going to do it!
Progress is achieved through deliberate baby steps. Your “Yes” vote will allow this progress to continue.