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Education in Rural Kentucky

What's my Problem?

In the mid 1980s there was much ado about the Clinton County School System locally, statewide and nationally. This had been a local concern with many people for some time, but came to a head after our students obtained the lowest scores in the state on some statewide academic test and it was pointed out that educationally our state ranked one of the lowest in the country and our county one of the lowest in the state. This led some people to conclude that someone was saying that our school system was producing the dumbest kids in the country. This led to formation of a Citizen's committee, lots of newspaper coverage, a spot on 60 minutes TV program, the resignation of the long time school superintendent, and his replacement by his nephew, a high school classmate of mine.

Since I felt that all the attention was probably producing more heat than light and since I was very busy trying to make a living, I did not get involved although I knew several people who were involved on both sides of the controversy. There have always been two sides?

By the fall of 1990 my youngest son was a 7th grader. I knew from both what my oldest son had told me and from observing my youngest son's school work that the school system had very little interest in educating children. In 1990 due to modest business successes I had a little more time available. My son had had trouble with lack of discipline and order in the school system for a number of years because of harassment by other kids usually older kids riding his bus or in the hallways or cafeteria of the schools. The school system was quick to do something when specific problems were brought to their attention but seemed to have no interest in improving the school educational environment, at least not in the ways that I thought appropriate. At the same time KERA was being implemented, my taxes were increased, and a school board election was coming up. I decided to look into the school system to see if I could use any skills I might have to determine for myself just what the problems were and to see if I could suggest any solutions to anyone who might be interested. I first wrote an essay on problems and distributed it to several parents, teachers, school board members, school board candidates, administrators, and the superintendent to see what comments I would get. The following is a quote from part of that first essay:

"My younger son has complained about the school bus environment for at least three years, but I, being a busy parent and also being slow to catch on, did not listen. He has been cursed, hit, and had objects thrown at him and around the school bus in general. My complaints were listened to and acted upon in specific instances but the overall environment did not change. I finally realized that the local school system is incapable of providing a decent transportation system in my area of the county, so I took him off the bus and am trying to get him to school in the mornings and back in the evenings. This is difficult because I, like most parents, have to work to make a living and unfortunately most of my jobs last past 2:40 in the afternoon. However, since I have done this he has been much happier with school, studies better, and I think, is beginning to develop a real interest in his studies. He certainly comes home in a better mood to tackle his homework.

I recently talked to a young woman who had just started her oldest child in kindergarten or first grade. She was concerned to learn that there was no soap provided the children in the bath rooms. She told me that she is trying to raise her children to be responsible civilized human beings and that one thing she had always taught them was to wash their hands with soap after using the bathroom. She wonders, if the school system does not teach that soap in the bathroom is important, what other commonly accepted facets of civilized behavior will her children also learn is of little importance? When asked about this a school official told me that if they put soap dispensers in the bathroom, they would be destroyed by the children within two days."

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Last revised August 21, 1995.

Please send comments to: Duane Bristow (72711.1414@compuserve.com)