19 August 2012

College or Career Ready Reaches Back to the Days of Opie Taylor

Our family loves The Andy Griffith Show and with the recent passing of Andy Griffith, all the episodes are available through Netflix right now.  Each evening for the past several weeks, the four of us have enjoyed re-watching an episode or two.  Last night we watched Opie Flunks Arithmetic.  I was struck by the conversation about Opie going either to college or to vocational school, depending upon how well he performed in arithmetic. 

As he typically does, Barney meddles in the affairs of Andy, Opie and Aunt Bee and even alarms Aunt Bee by suggesting Opie might drop out of school if he doesn’t improve his arithmetic, and because he can’t let the issue go, Barney drops by the Taylor house to share an “…article about the next generation…some pretty frightening statistics…Kids who drops out. That’s how fast things are changing in this country.”

Does this discussion sound familiar to you?  I feel like this is similar to conversations we are having in the United States to this day.  Think about it.  This episode of Andy Griffith first aired the same year (1965) the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), was enacted, providing legal authority for the U.S. government’s financial support of K-12 education.

Though the initial goal of ESEA was to provide federal resources to states and districts for services that would improve the achievement of low income students, this legislation also changed the way educators and policymakers viewed and talked about public education.  Since 1965 there have been periodic re-authorizations of ESEA which have provided occasion to rethink, enhance, and alter the federal investment in public schools.  In fact, in the course of my travels and work with the state department of education, I have engaged in conversations and work surrounding ESEA.  Since new ESEA legislation has not been passed in the United States, many states, including mine, have applied for and have been granted waivers.  You can read my thoughts about Kentucky’s waiver here.

I’d like to hope we’ve learned something about college and/or career readiness since 1965.  Have we?  How will we encourage students to be prepared for the world which awaits them?  Will we encourage them to be well rounded young people? Consider Helen Crump’s comments to Andy when they are discussing Ms. Crump’s decision to tell Opie he could play football after school “if you push a child too hard it can do a lot more harm than a poor grade.  Anyway, I don’t think your way has been too successful.”  In typical Andy fashion, he thinks about the situation and decides to believe in Opie and, in this case, his abilities to improve his arithmetic performance and maybe even go to college.

As the conversations around college and career readiness continue, let’s remember to believe in our students as Andy believed in Opie.  With carefulness and thoughtfulness in our endeavors and decisions, students can succeed and can be well-rounded, well-prepared citizens who enjoy life-long learning for many generations to come.
 This placard was a gift from my parents to my husband because they know he started the Andy Griffith craze at our house.  Though the image here doesn't depict the episode referenced in this blog, it does represent a fun item in the Boss household.