Studying a lesson of note

Rogers, State. Laird, Defense. Connally in the Treasury. Mitchell, A.G. Richardson, H.E.W. Rogers C.B. Morton, Interior . . . .

— 1971

Generations of Marion High School graduates lost one of their most dogged champions this week with the passing of retired educator Pat Jackson.

None of us may be able to name more than two current public officials, but those of us privileged to have had her as our high school government teacher can doubtlessly recite the Supreme Court justices or cabinet members from whatever year we learned them in musical form in her class.

Memorizing names, dates and such long since has gone out of fashion educationally. What should never go out of fashion are the passion and high standards she consistently imposed in her classroom.

Later students may have had war games from Grant Thierolf. Earlier students may recall grammar with Maude Thompson. Several generations owe their mathematically survival to Rex Wilson, a tradition being extended by Gary Stuchlik. The list of great teachers who have graced Marion’s schools is so long we dare not begin to enumerate others for fear of overlooking yet another impressive educator.

What’s impressive about each of them is not so much what they taught us about their subject matter as it is the manner in which they taught that subject — with exemplary determination to their craft and deserved confidence and insistence that we would, in fact, learn.

We haven’t been in any of today’s classrooms, but we’re convinced teachers’ determination hasn’t changed. What we’re not so sure about is their confidence that students will learn.

Great as Marion’s teachers have been, expectation and support are sometimes lacking. We’re not talking about financial support. As a society, we continue to shower elementary, middle and high schools with tax money as if it were confetti. What we haven’t provided is the home life and community involvement necessary to make sure the seeds teachers plant actually grow.

Too often people regard local schools as day-care — places to warehouse and feed their children so they can provide cheap entertainment in the way of concerts, plays, and sports. If half the prominence and public accolades given to entertainment were focused on education itself, our children would find a much wider world of opportunity opening up for them.

We owe Pat Jackson and others a huge debt of gratitude, and the best way to begin repaying that debt is by making sure every student is ready, willing, and able not just to perform in activities but also to benefit from the lessons teachers are offering.

Making learning as cool as playing means having parents, grandparents, friends, and neighbors asking about, helping with, and rewarding schoolwork, and insisting upon winning efforts in the classroom as well as on the stage and the playing field.

That lesson, more than the names of cabinet members or Supreme Court justices, is the one Pat Jackson would have wanted us to learn.

— ERIC MEYER

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