To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Wednesday, December 8, 2021


What Are Schools For?



Sharon MartinIn the newspaper recently was the face, a mug shot, of a former student. He’d been arrested for an alleged armed robbery. He’d already served time for robbery, the article said.

He had, but what the reporter didn’t say was that the first arrest happened when he was barely 18. His accomplices, both 17, didn’t serve any time for the robberies, but he did.

The article also didn’t say that the getaway vehicle for one of the string of incidents for which the high school boys, all students of mine, had been arrested was a bicycle or that the weapon was a BB gun.

Did that make it any less serious? No. Armed robbery’s a serious offense, and this youthful stupidity had serious consequences.

As the news story outlined the sordid incident, it didn’t tell the public what I, his former teacher knew – that the kid was funny, but he was also street smart. He had to be. And he craved a loving family. He could have been something special.

Most schools, especially those in poor areas, aren’t given the tools to help students overcome parents that can’t or won’t do the right things for their children. And as we step up the testing and cut out the funding, more and more children who need more than their teachers can give them will not get the help they and their families sorely need.

School must be a community effort. Parents must be a vital part of that community, and not just as cheerleaders for the football team.

Schools need to teach life skills, civic responsibility, and the arts, not just reading, writing, and arithmetic. We must teach young people and their parents how to navigate the social world. We must give them tools to build strong families.

Contrary to what you hear in the press, we are turning out students who can do higher order math. We are also turning away those who are doomed to sad lives because of our focus on core subjects.

Forget Common Core; we have to nurture the whole child. We have to help students build lives so they can do better by their children than their parents did for them.

We have to focus on families.

Until we do, there will be more lost souls like the young man in the mug shot for whom I mourn.

Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer


Facebook Comments


  1. I have been teaching for 21 years. You cannot imagine how many kids go through public education without parental support. These kids get their support from what they encounter at school. They can encounter the good or the bad. As a teacher, I have always tried to treat my students with respect, no matter what their background is. I teach at the secondary level and parent/teacher conferences are really sad at my level. I may get 3-5 parents over a two night period. Those are the parents that I do not need to see (I have 125 kiddos). I also worked in the counselor’s office as a counselor for two years. It is amazing how many kids we helped did not have any support at home. Yet these kids who deal with abuse (sexual or physical), no food, no parent, no help, screaming and yelling fights throughout the night, etc., are expected to come to school ready to learn and test well on mandated tests. Some of these same kids get their only food at school. No child should have to deal with these circumstances growing up – they should be allowed to be kids. Everyone is so quick to jump on the “schools are failures” band wagon and will never mention how the parents are failing their children. I see my students for 55 minutes. I cannot solve the problems of 24 students in 55 minutes. I truly do my best to help every student who may appear to be having a hard time or day and it is tiring but I have a great compassion for my job and teaching. It is so much more than just teaching and I love it. So, you are right. It starts with the family. You get the parents involved in their child’s life, you would see a huge difference in our educational system.

  2. In this day and age no one wants to take the blame for their own faults or mistakes. Most people are quick to jump to conclusions and blame someone else. As a parent I know what it is like to not want to fail your children. I want to believe that I am a perfect parent and can do no wrong. But the truth is no one is perfect and we all have faults. The tricky part is how we choose to deal with it. We can admit that we have faults and work harder to fix them or we can just push the blame onto someone else. The ones that get blamed most of the time are schools.

  3. I love this story. A lot of teachers ignore the kids that are struggling and just focus on the other kids that are passing the class. Teachers needs to pay attention more to their students and help them more. Not just focusing on the school work.

  4. I have wondered many times myself, just what are our school for?

    We should do a lot more in schools than just teach math,reading and (sorry Mr.Flicker) writing also. Students need more than those basics to make it in this world. They should teach more life skills and have more counseling for the students and their families if necessary.

    Like the statement “The Village Raises The Children”. I think it should be in our schools also. Such as the parents should be made to help more and other siblings to. They could help keep our students interested in school by helping with home work and by taking them on special field trips to show them first hand how life and choices matter. Help them learn how to have stronger family ties.

    So I do think it is important for our schools to teach a higher order in life skills as they do in a higher order of math.

  5. It does take a community effort to teach a child, not only does the parent need to be a great part of the community, so does the church. Teaching a child the bible and showing the love that is taught through the bible could eliminate alot of negative in their lives. I know when I was growing I did not have parental support. My support came from my youth minister and those with bible based values. As the old saying goes “it takes a village to raise a child.” Oh so true! Great article!

  6. I agree wholly with the notion that it is the responsibility of parents and schools to make sure our children are given all the means necessary to succeed in this life. When I was growing up, for most of my childhood, my family was very poor. My parents divorced when I was five, leaving my mother a single woman, raising seven kids on her own. My brothers and I worried daily about things no child should have to worry about. Where would our next meal come from? Would we have to wear the same clothes to school again tomorrow? That being said, my siblings and I did exceptionally well in school, and I must say, have turned into pretty awesome adults too. I believe this is a direct result of the support we not only had from our devoted mother, but also by faculty of the various schools we attended as young children. I remember being called into the counselers office at 10 years old just “to talk.” She wanted to make sure I was ok. My brother’s band teacher took a special interest him, spending extra time tutoring him and just being there. It is amazing how much a difference reaching out can make to a child.

  7. Schools are there to teach our children, not raise them.
    Parents put some blame on the schools, and vice versa.
    Everyone has a job to do, and the teacher single-handed, should not have to be the parent. They do so, because they care.
    The parent, single-handed, has a job also.
    Only, when both hands are working together,will they, accomplish the job completely.

Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.