Education today not like in the old days

No, they haven’t discovered any new dinosaur bones but they did dig up Ernie Sochin to tell us a few details from way back then.

I can’t help but read in the newspapers each day of all the various methods being used to grade our schoolchildren. I read a lot about Common Core, FCATs, SAT’s, PISA, No Child Left Behind, and all kinds of other stuff that no one seems to understand.

In the news last week was a story about a top-rated science teacher at a local school who ended up being downgraded because her class was not proficient in English — not the subject that she teaches. Despite all that, the U.S. still failed to make the top 20 in math, science or reading, compared to other countries. What is going on?

Now back to the Geriatric Era. When I went to school in the city of Boston, teachers were not allowed to be married. The thought was that they could not concentrate on their teaching activities if they had to deal with a spouse at home.

The teachers that I had were tough and great disciplinarians. If you misbehaved in school they would not hesitate to wrap your knuckles with a ruler, or a switch (or rattan as they were called). If you were caught chewing gum in class they made you stick it to your nose for the rest of the day. Believe me, we behaved! I misbehaved one time but in my mind it was excusable.

My home disciplinarian hates when I tell this story but I like to be as transparent as possible in my articles. You see I was in the second grade when we were asked to draw a picture of Santa Claus at Christmas time. I was not a particularly good artist and seem to be getting no recognition for my drawing. I decided to add an anatomical feature to Santa Claus and show him making a pee-pee. I got the recognition that I was seeking including a scolding from the teacher and my parents were asked to come to the school to discuss my apparent problem.

Now what about grading? It was simple back then. Either you learned the stuff or you didn’t. If you didn’t you would have to attend summer school, something everyone hated, in order to catch up. If that didn’t work, you would be required to “stay back.” This would cast a black mark against your name and you would now be the oldest kid in next year’s class and everyone would know that you had stayed back. No one would want this type of humiliation. Somehow this seemed to work pretty well for my generation.

None of us seemed to have ADHD, needed psychological counseling, or various other present day reasons for simply not paying attention in class. Boy, have things changed. Okay kids, here comes grandpa with his stories again. We actually did walk to school and home every single day, rain or shine, snow or hail; we somehow made it. Of course we would listen to the radio every morning during the winter waiting for those heartwarming words: “No school, all schools, Boston and vicinity.” Those words still bring a warmness to my heart each time I hear them.

Of course once we reached high school we were given passes to ride the public transportation buses to our nearest school. My high school had two separate buildings — one for boys, and the other for girls. If a boy was asked to deliver a note or message to the girls building, that was considered quite a treat.

Of course, none of us had an iPhone, iPad, or anything like that. We had a public library with a bunch of little cards using the Dewey Decimal System, which helped us locate books in the library. Imagine, books made out of paper that you really had to borrow and return.

Playing, back then, meant getting hold of a little pink ball and an old broom handle, making the Chevy firstbase, the Buick second base, and the sewer cover, home plate. I never had a “play date.” I just went out into the street and played with the other kids who happened to be there. It was great!

As we all see in those emails that we all receive on a regular basis, somehow we all survived. Perhaps it is time to look back to the Geriatric Era and try to learn from it.

More from Ernie is available at

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