Commentary: ‘Old school’ lessons of good and right are needed in today’s society

Commentary: ‘Old school’ lessons of good and right are needed in today’s society
August 24
13:00 2022

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

I am an old school guy. I was taught about what was good and right. I have done my best to live by those tenets each day.

Growing up during a time when standards were in place gave us a foundation. Veering away from established norms was problematic and would cause us trouble. We had people that we observed every day who gave us a path to follow.

As Black children coming of age, there were certain things that we had to do. There were no excuses or shortcuts. For starters, our parents told us that we represented the household. In other words, we represented them. On countless occasions, they told us not to get into trouble. In fact, my dad told me if I was involved in police activity not to call him.

As I reflect now, that statement scared me then and made me think about the consequences of my actions. I was scared straight before any national program with the same name came into existence.

Education was important in my Winston-Salem neighborhood. There were a lot of occupations and careers on my street. We had role models before the term was created. Going to school was literally a “no-brainer.” We didn’t play hooky. Our attendance was perfect except for when we were sick.

Our parents were not our friends.

I often say to audiences that there are two ships, the parent ship and the friendship. I believe what happened to me in childhood followed me into adulthood.

Now today is a bit different in my opinion. The importance of school for some is not what it was. Multiple factors have contributed to this decline in reading, writing and arithmetic. Again, my thinking is there are not enough community ambassadors pushing the importance of school as a way for a better quality of life.

Teachers are under-valued and under-paid. College graduates in some states don’t need to take a national standardized examination in order to become certified. According to reports, a prospective teacher does not have to take the Praxis test in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Michigan. Each state has instituted its own licensure requirements. I suspect more states will follow this example.

Back in the day, I took the National Teachers Examination (NTE) in order to gain a teaching position. School systems must place qualified people in front of children for them to learn. Just think, you would not go to a dentist, lawyer or surgeon who had not passed the required examination.

Are children today getting the message from their parents that they represent the household? I believe most of them are, yet some would disagree with my assertion. Carjackings, guns being brought to school, and assaults are all associated with today’s youth. For example, reports say that in Minneapolis there were 405 carjackings last year. Many of the suspects were between the ages of 11 and 17. Other cities like Louisville, Kentucky, and Kansas City, Missouri, have also seen carjackings on the rise. We hear and read about carjackings by young people almost on an everyday basis. Some of these crimes have resulted in people dying.

Lives are ruined forever because of poor decisions. Earlier this year, Tariq Majeed was robbed of his vehicle in Washington, D.C. Fortunately, the police came quickly and recovered it. Mr. Majeed said, “I honestly believe it’s a game. Stolen cars used to be stripped down, with the parts sold for cash.” He added, “Now people are carjacked and the cars are often found afterward, crashed or just left on the street.”

I think we ought to try some lessons from the old school.

I believe they will help.

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