Quite honestly, my school years were not all that happy because I failed a lot. I felt inadequate in all aspects of my life with several exceptions -- baseball, Boy Scouts and army cadets. To this day I am convinced that kids like me fall through the cracks of the educational system because not enough attention is paid to individual student aptitude. The subject of guidance, virtually non-existent in my time, still seems to be given a short shift.
I had to leave high school to have my much coveted fling at professional baseball and to experience the real world for a while in order to learn the value of education. I was smart enough to know that if I was ever going to get anywhere in the business world, I had to prepare for it academically. My first step was to take a two-year business management course by correspondence, then later as a mature student I took political science and Canadian history courses at the university level, three evenings a week while holding down a full-time job and raising a family. Trust me, that is a route that I would not recommend to anyone.
Studying and absorbing text that was in front of me presented a problem. When there is the pressure of having to remember facts and figures in order to "make a grade", my mind still shuts down. My memory retention is far better, however, when relying on powers of observation and listening in an everyday, relaxed setting. I get far better results too when learning by rote (doing a thing repeatedly until I conquer it).
It took almost half of my life to realize that my greatest asset is an ability to write. It satisfies my need to create, relate and communicate. It brings me satisfaction. It is, in a way, life fulfilling. I just regret that it took so long for me to understand the secrets of self-expression through the written word -- inspiration, confidence, courage, motivation.
My advice to young people today is: Don't be afraid to talk to your teachers (I know this is easier said than done); let them know when you do not understand, or you need an explanation about something. Understand that, in the overall scheme of things, your time at school will be an all-too-brief period at the beginning of your life -- make the best of it, participate in extra-curricular activities and have fun. What you experience and learn in school will carry you through the rest of your life. And it most certainly will help in making a living for you and your family.
The forgoing has been a rather long and roundabout way of setting the stage for the reproduction of an address given by my old Lambton Kent District High School principal, Edward H. Logan, at the conclusion of the 1949-50 school term. Mr. Logan's 60-year-old words remain applicable today and it is like he was actually talking to me, a student about to enter Grade 9, only I did not recognize it at the time. Typically at that stage, my mind would have been a thousand miles away. If he were alive today and reading this, he would shake his head in amazement while exclaiming: "Dick Wright, of all people. Thank goodness something finally sank in!"
Over to you Mr. Logan. Sorry for being a disappointment. I should have listened better and I should have talked to you more! I should have talked to teachers Frank Brown, Bill Bryant and Margaret Tamblyn too, but I was just a kid. I didn't think anyone would listen, even if I could put into words what I wanted to say. I didn't turn out too bad after all though. If only you could hear now what I want to say -- 60 years too late! RIP
Edward H. Logan, B. Com., Principal: A message to his students, 1949-50
During your years at school many of you do not realize just what the school is trying to accomplish in the way of education. To you, education consists of learning material out of books and writing examinations, and you fail to grasp the true purpose behind what oftentimes seems to be meaningless tasks.
|Edward H. Logan|
Education has been defined as the ability to do what you should do when you should do it whether you want to or not. Your years at school should give you the ability to analyze and to think for yourselves and should show you the necessity for discipline and co-operation. In so far as you have learned these lessons, your education has been successful and the school has achieved its main purpose.
Education should enable you to do three things (a) to earn a living, (b) to life a life, and (c) to mould a world.
To earn a living is, of course, the main objective of each and every one of us. At the present time if one is to compete successfully in industry or the professions, an education is essential. Education in itself, however, is no guarantee of success, but it will increase the opportunities for success provided it is coupled with hard work and a definite goal.
Education, however, should mean more than merely earning a living. In the last few years, the tendency has been to place emphasis on this side of education and to try to evaluate education in terms of dollars and cents. The more intangible aspects of education have been shoved to the background and this is an unfortunate trend -- one which is based on false notions. Education cannot be regarded merely as a commodity to be bought and sold. Mere financial success is not the chief aim in life nor does it necessarily bring happiness. Education should mean much more than this. To be completely successful, education should enrich the personality and develop interests which will lead to a broader, fuller and happier life.
It has been often and truly said that you pupils of today are the citizens of tomorrow. Before long, you will be leaving our school to go out in the world. Here you will be called upon to play your part in the affairs of your community and of your country. The world at present is in a state of upheaval and change, and you as its future citizens will be called upon to influence and mould its destiny. To do this successfully, a broad and sympathetic understanding of the problems to be faced is essential. This can come only from education in its broadest sense.
During and since the war (WW2), we have heard a great deal about the four freedoms -- Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech. These are the foundations upon which are based our form of government and our way of life. There is however, a fifth freedom more fundamental than any of the others and this is the Freedom of Ignorance.
The ignorant man is the easiest prey to want and fear. Freedom of religion means little to him, and a free press means nothing, for even if technically he can read, he cannot understand what he reads. He is a danger to himself, to you, this country and to the world. To overcome this danger and guard against the threat of ignorance, it is essential that the best in education be available to all and that you, the pupils, should take advantage of the educational opportunities provided for your benefit.
As with all my other posts on Wrights Lane, if you feel that any young person can benefit from reading this, please pass it along.