Dr. Fred Eichelman: Our Continually Failing Public Schools
It seems like every day we are getting new horror stories about things being done by socialist Democrats led by Joe Biden. The saddest for me, as a retired teacher, has been the latest report showing schools in the United States dropping further behind many other nations in math, science, reading and writing skills. Just recently there was a report that a national testing program revealed fourth graders in ability have dropped behind in scores over thirty years. Blame this on lockdowns led by Democrat governors due to “misunderstanding” the China pandemic, and the new trend of teaching CRT and transgender studies…Whatever ever the reason, it is bad.
I am particularly struck by this being shown with fourth graders in public schools as this is a very pivotal time. The key primary grades, K-3, have been passed and now preparation begins for junior and senior high school and plans for future careers. Fourth grade was personally a most important year for me and later encouraged me to go into teaching. My future goal was not income, but outcome, how students will do in the future. I feel continually rewarded as I run into former students and learn about their lives. For me I am forever grateful to several teachers in my past and especially my fourth grade teacher Martha Radachy.
During my primary grades I was not a big fan of school as I felt very restricted. Even before kindergarten I was reading comic books and my parents read to me nightly. There were radio shows, “the theater of the mind” that also encouraged my love for books. In school libraries as an early grader I was prohibited from checking our books considered too difficult for me. Reading classes were boring with a concentration on the Dick and Jane stories. Today it is true the Dick and Jane books are collectibles, however Dick and Jane were a far cry from Superman and Wonder Woman.
Then in fourth grade I found a teacher willing to go beyond formal teacher guides and willing to meet individual needs. Martha Radachy encouraged me to read The Hardy Boys series and many others considered too advanced for my age. She also found I loved creative writing and had me write a class play that was put on for other classes. This example struck home my first year of teaching. One of my seventh graders, Barbara, came to me very upset that the library would not check out the classic book War and Peace. I happened to have a copy in my home library and loaned it to her which she was thrilled to read. Years later I found that Barbara became a teacher and she told me that whenever she entered a classroom she was not just herself she was Mr. Eichelman. I have to think it was not not just me, it was Ms. Radachy.
Of course there were other teachers who influenced me over the years and there was another one in elementary school who gave me the confidence to work harder for grades. To do this he did something very unprofessional. Mr. Litten was my 7th grade teacher and as a state requirement administered IQ tests. Test results were kept private and we as students were not to be told the result. In class one day after the test was given Mr. Litten called me to his desk. He showed me my test score and commented, “Fred, that is a very high score and I should kick your butt around this school building for not making better grades.” Rather than being downcast I was elated. This teacher revealed that I had possibilities to be a better student and someday have a successful career. I did work harder after that.