Viva la Education

History reflects that Texas values proper schoolin'.

\To the sorrow of most children and the relief of all parents, summer is finally over, and another school year is upon us. And once again, questions about how we’re learnin’ our kids will be hot topics in social circles, as well as the state legislature.

But if you think public education is a big issue now, you should have been around Texas back in the 1830s. You may not know this, but according to the Texas Education Agency, one of the main reasons we wanted to sever ties with Mexico was because of their failure “to establish any public system of education, although possessed of almost boundless resources...” That’s totally understandable, if you’re familiar with Texas history.

You see, when the early settlers first arrived in the state, kids had little to do except hang around the house and complain about no video games. This was driving the settlers crazy, so they bargained with the Mexican government to create a public school system that would at least get the children out of their hair for nine months out of the year. When Mexico failed to perform, the settlers became very irritated and decided to revolt. They realized they couldn’t do it alone, so they texted men like Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, asking for their help. They agreed to participate if the settlers would name a town and a couple of streets after them.

In the most famous battle for Texas independence, Crockett, Bowie and 200 other brave Texans holed up in an abandoned car rental agency and fended off nearly 3,000 Mexican soldiers for 13 days.
And although that battle was lost, Texas finally gained its independence on March 2, 1836. Hard to believe that if the Mexican government would have just spent the money and built a school system, Texas would probably still be part of Mexico.
But I’m pretty glad things turned out the way they did. Otherwise, OU Weekend would be all about a soccer game.

Now once Texas had its independence, it still needed to come up with a proper way to educate its children. In the 1840s, laws were enacted to set aside large amounts of acreage in each county to support the new schools. One tenth of state tax revenues would provide the funding. But just like today, citizens were concerned with the quality of education that students were receiving. Some felt they needed more incentive to study. Few people know this, but following the Civil War, Ross Perot’s great grandfather proposed a rule that no child be allowed to participate in sports if they failed a subject. Of course the only sport back then was farming, so the rule came to be known as “no pass, no plow.”

Since then, the goal of achieving a quality education for every student has not changed in Texas, although the means for achieving that goal has always been a matter of debate.  The last 40 years have seen the emergence of private schools as an alternative to public education. Public schools answered back with magnet programs, which stressed advanced and accelerated learning. But truth is,  homeschooling became the only surefire way for your child to be valedictorian. The state legislature has tried to come up with various ways to level the playing field for all our students, but some of them confuse me, which is not all that difficult. However, a clear explanation of the voucher system or the rationale behind charter schools is hard to find.

But despite all the changes in school systems,  I don’t think children will ever have it as good as we did long ago. They’ll never experience duck-and-cover drills, the smell of mimeographed paper, floor fans instead of air conditioning, the taste of whatever that meat was in the school cafeteria, and......come to think of it, today’s kids have got it pretty good.