Fred DeCoursey

I wonder what the Isle-Onamia school consolidation will be? Last week, I sat for an hour at a meeting in McGrath and watched 300 citizens of that community’s school district decide that to save a town, they must build a small 70 pupil elementary school in the village of McGrath! These adults decided that, to save a town, all the children born in that area for the next 15 or 20 years are destined to get the first important six years of their education in a school where each teacher will undoubtedly be teaching two grades; in a school where special teachers, special classes and special teaching devices would not be available because of the size of the school; in a school that, except being newer, will be just like the one that Dad and Mom attended. And yes–maybe not offering much more than the one that grandpa attended.

Not once in last week’s meeting in McGrath (and I was there) did anyone get up and honestly pose the question, “Is attempting to save a town more important than seeing that our children, and the children not yet born in our area, get the very best, modern education that’s available?” Not once did anyone ask, “Is building a small school here going to deprive our children of the better advantages that they might have at a larger school?”

In McGrath, the youngsters may be missing something–to “save a town”–a town that died while a school, larger than the one that the area folks tell themselves will be a “saving factor,” was right in its midst!

That’s what’s happening in McGrath. What’s going to happen in Isle and Onamia?

It’s funny how we think progressively about some things and still cling to the past about other proposed changes. We make every effort to take advantage of the latest mechanical and scientific methods of farming. We trade our car or pickup in for the latest model because it has more horsepower and the latest gadgets; during our lifetime, we’ve pampered ourselves with every modern convenience we could afford–and many we couldn’t afford.

But–when it comes to education–we have this “hang-up” that tries to convince us that “any school that was good enough for me, or my dad–and, yes, even my granddad–is good enough for my kids”–not being honest enough to admit that granddad rode a horse. Today, we’re going to the moon! We kid ourselves into believing that we know more than the educators who recommend larger schools as the best answer to better education. We tell ourselves that our kids can’t adjust, that the bus trip will be too long. But if we’re honest, we’ll have to admit that we oppose the change for selfish or sentimental reasons–we want the school from which we graduated to last forever, or it’s “bad for business” if the school goes, or the cost of providing a progressive school system causes us to think all kinds of reasons why “what we have is good enough.”

The school boards of Isle and Onamia are suggesting that the two districts merge, as told in detail in the story on page 1. Most members of the two boards believe that the larger, merged district will provide a better education for our young people. I believe they’re right. We’ve been letting petty excuses stand in the way of educational progress in this area long enough.

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We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.

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 If you think drugs aren’t available to the young people in this area simply because we are a rural area–think again. A story on the front page tells of an Onamia High boy, 18, who has been allegedly arrested for possessing drugs. There are others in our schools using and distributing drugs–but authorities are handicapped by our laws which make it necessary for arresting officers to actually witness a transaction–so it’s a slow waiting game.

But parents can help this serious problem by knowing what their teenagers are doing–and impressing upon them the seriousness of drug abuse.

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