Although I’ve been a quarter century away from the classroom, the old school teacher in me has once again raised his ugly head. What prompted this latest uprising is an old newspaper clipping I ran across the other day after having copied and squirreled it away at some time in the far distant past. Its author was not identified, but it ran on the front page of this very newspaper on September 19, 1907. (I said it was old).
It was likely intended as an editorial, and even though the writer -- obviously well trained -- was apparently concentrating a bit more on style than substance, his observations reflected a general feeling for education at that time. It’s been more than a 100 years since he penned his thoughts, but it appears to me that, at least in some regard, things haven’t changed much.
The three brief paragraphs read as follows: “The school bell chimes out ‘Come,’ and as we look forth to see the groups of boys and girls on their way to school, we note some whose elastic step and cheerful faces are highly indicative of soul and mind, and all such will prove a blessing to themselves, their teachers and the school.
“Their actions show their anxiety for work; their lessons will be perfectly prepared. The recitations will be given and they will attend to the round on the ladder of fame and learning called success.
“Following comes another group whose lagging steps and sullen faces show that the sound of the bell grated harshly upon their ears. These will prove unruly , unkind and, unlike the other class named, will take but little interest in their work; and at the end of the year, in spite of a teacher’s earnest efforts in their behalf, will be but little farther advanced than in the beginning.”
As I mentioned, the three paragraphs were well written, and well intended. And speaking from a bit of experience, it’s my opinion that, despite all that’s changed in this world since 1907, students then and students now are of the same ilk.
Ever since I was a small boy, I’ve heard the old saying, “With age comes wisdom.” At one time in my young life, I probably believed that. However, since I’ve accomplished the “age” part of the equation and have yet to acquire the first smattering of “wisdom,” I’m beginning to have my doubts. Sometimes I think I’ll start my own series of “old sayings” and change this one to, “When you get older, you’ll still be dumber than a bucket of rocks.”
Seriously though, I suppose old sayings have always had a place in our language and in our history, and have probably been used on many occasions to make the writer (or the speaker) appear more intelligent than he really is. But I’ve found that not only are some of these sayings just flat untrue, others are a bit difficult to understand. I have, however, finally figured out the meaning of “A stitch in time saves nine.”
Problem is, sometimes it’s difficult for me to remember what I’m supposed to do with the “nine” I’ve saved.