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Commentary: Do school district standards and expectations fit today’s times?

Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

Commentary: Do school district standards and expectations fit today’s times?
June 06
08:32 2019

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

That is a question that will bring many passionate responses. Right away, we could opine that times have changed so standards must change. Whatever your opinion is, the question deserves a response.

I was a high school teacher in an urban city many years ago, so the schools I knew aren’t the schools that I know today. They are different because we have allowed them to be different because of various policy changes. Some of the changes have worked out well, while some have not.

Schools back in the day were in neighborhoods, so neighborhood children went to them. In fact, many of us walked to school. Having our parents transport us to school was optional. It wasn’t required.

When we arrived at school, we walked in the building unencumbered. We didn’t wear uniforms. What we wore was always appropriate. Why? Because our parents made sure of it. You see, we represented them and our household.

Teachers wore suits, dresses and pantsuits. They looked sharp! Why? Because teachers were respected and the profession was honored. They took pride in their appearance and wanted to set an example for us. They were certified to teach and had high learning standards for us. You couldn’t stand in front of children and not be qualified to be there.

When parents visited the schools, many came in their work clothes. This didn’t necessarily mean their Sunday best, but it also didn’t mean they dressed slovenly. Parents too had pride and wanted to set a good example.

Teaching was a career choice. This meant the same teacher could have taught your brother, sister or cousin. They engaged in best practices before the term was made popular because they wanted to give us their best efforts. This translated into both longevity and job satisfaction. Now today’s schools are different.

Children in many school districts don’t walk to school, even though schools are in their neighborhood. School buses are used to take students to school miles from their homes and at early hours in the morning. In some cities, it is not uncommon to see students standing at the bus stop at 6 a.m. Now that in my opinion is alarming, yet this is the case in many districts.

A significant number of schools have metal detectors and security guards at the entrance. Why? Because students bring guns and other weapons to school. Sad.

Students wear uniforms now, so fights don’t occur because of apparel. The days of wearing plain clothes are over. Schools have become uniform-driven.

There is a new dress ensemble for teachers. Mostly gone are the days of suits and dresses. Teacher attire has become relaxed. In the eyes of many, maybe too relaxed. Are they role modeling for our children? Teacher credentialing doesn’t seem to be as important anymore. Uncertified people stand in front of our children and grandchildren. School systems are at fault for this decline. Would you want your dentist to be unlicensed?

The teaching field has taken a hit and doesn’t attract as many committed folks. Unfortunately, it is attracting and even recruiting people who simply want to pay off their student loans. They want a short-term stint at the expense of our youth. In my view, we have too many education nomads and mercenaries going from school to school to the highest bidder. They put down no roots and make no investment in the community.

Parents in many school districts come dressed differently. Some will say they lack the economic means and can do no better. Could that be the reason?

Recently, a school principal in Houston, Texas, took a stand. Carlotta Outley Brown, the principal at James Madison High School, instituted a parent dress code. It has been met with mixed results. I applaud Principal Outley Brown and I hope the community and the school support her. We need leaders and change agents in education today.

Remember! Our children represent the future of this country.

James B. Ewers Jr. Ed.D. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University, where he was all-conference for four years.  He is a retired college administrator.  He can be reached at ewers.jr56@nullyahoo.com

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