In Which The Death Knell Sounds For My High School

I’m now in Nashville, my home for the best five years of my life and still home to many of my college friends. We went and played trivia at our old bar tonight, just like we used to every week, and it was like I’d never left. It’s like that whenever I’m back here, and just seeing these people again adds to much to my life. If I’m ever in a rough place emotionally (which I’m not now at all, but if I ever am…), these people are the ones who get me through.

I forgot to write about this last night: on my way through Kansas, I got pulled over for driving in the left lane. Apparently there’s a new law in the state which says you can only drive in the left lane if you’re passing someone, and I wasn’t. The policeman said the law is so new they’re not ticketing anyone yet, just reminding people, but he asked if he could search my car. I just figured it was like the other day, they’re searching random cars in hopes of catching one or two. So I got out and he proceeded to check my car piece by piece, really thoroughly. Another car pulled up and the policeman in that one came over to me and asked if I’d ever been arrested for anything before. I said no, I hadn’t. He said okay and then went over to help the first officer search the car. By this time it had been about twenty minutes and they’re looking through everything. The second policeman then comes back over to me and says, “The reason we’re checking so thoroughly is because the dispatcher says you’ve been arrested for dope and you say you haven’t.” I kind of laughed in surprise and said, “Really? That’s…weird.” He then asked for my social security number to make sure they had the right guy. After they finally finished checking the first officer came over and asked for my social security number again, and he called the dispatcher back. Things were quickly cleared up because apparently the dispatcher had looked up the wrong person. The policemen all had a nice laugh about that while I kind of stood there and waited for them to let me go. When I got back to my car all my stuff was in different places and kind of thrown around, and my computer bag was now sitting on top of my limited-edition Wilco poster from the concert in L.A. Said poster now has a good crease in it. So thanks, Topeka Police Department!

As a more serious topic, the big news around people I know in Rock Hill today was that my old high school was closing after forty years. This wasn’t a surprise for me, since my mom taught there. People connected with the school knew the trouble it had been in the last couple years especially, and I was just waiting for them to finally close it down. The school had been slowly losing students since I went there eight years ago, and in the coming year they were down into the mid-eighties. Even at a tiny Christian school which barely pays its teachers a living wage, this wasn’t enough students to pay the bills.

A few months ago, as I talked with my parents about the trouble the school was having, they asked me if I would send my kids there if I had kids old enough to go. I said I wouldn’t send them there now with the way the school was. By this time they’d cut out all extracurricular activities and weren’t even really offering a full schedule of academic classes. I think, especially for a parent of a high schooler, it would be irresponsible to send your kid to a school like that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the time I spent there and think it was valuable. I was able to play any and all sports I wanted, was able to sing in the choir and act in school plays, was able to take art classes, and had smalled classes and personal teacher-student relationships throughout my whole education. I think these kinds of things are incredibly valuable, and my English teacher in particular awakened a love of reading and writing that’s served me well in my life. I feel like, with that class especially, I got the kind of education I wouldn’t have gotten in a public school. In my other classes…maybe not so much. Many times the teachers were only teaching a class because the school couldn’t find anyone else, so you might have history, math, or science teachers who weren’t so qualified in the subject. Sometimes you’d get a good one, but the only consistently great teacher I had was my English/Literature teacher. But I feel like that class, plus the sports and arts opportunities I got, made going to the school worthwhile.

But once the school got rid of those extra opportunities, and the English teacher had to leave because of a tragic family issue…I didn’t see what the point was to send a kid to the school. The main selling point was that it was a conservative Christian school, which in the Bible Belt isn’t as much of a selling point as in other areas of the country. The public schools in my town are decent, and supposedly everyone in town is a Christian anyway, so why spend the extra to send your kid to a specifically Christian school, and one with no opportunities for student enrichment, especially in this economy? And that’s what the school closing was blamed on: the economy. And I get that, I understand that the economy was surely a factor.

But I don’t think that’s the only reason. The main reason, I think, was that the school had become irrelevant, unnecessary, and obsolete. The teachers who were still there were the ones who were the ones who really believed in what they were doing and were good at it, so it’s sad for me to see them have to go (especially my mom, who is now very possibly done teaching after more than thirty years of being a really brilliant and caring elementary school educator), but the school wasn’t something people needed or wanted anymore. There were no opportunities for kids to excel at anything, the education level had been passed by the public schools, and the non-essential Christian values the school was holding onto were conservative ones which had been rendered ineffective and in many cases hurtful years ago.

So it’s not surprising. It had been coming for a while, and while my time there was valuable and I feel awful for the teachers who have to try to find a job now, I’m not so sad to see the school close. I was never as enamored with it as some people were.

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