Mr. Wizard

Friday, March 9, 2018

There was once a television show titled, “Mr. Wizard.” The star and creator of the show was Donald Jeffery Herbert (Wikipedia). To kids from my baby boomer generation, his show which ran on Saturday mornings from 1951-1965, was must-see television.

I was reminded of Mr. Wizard when I was viewing some online posts regarding recent Nevada High School student accomplishments. The boy’s basketball team concluded their season taking second place in the district finals, while our Lady Tigers won the district in a down to the wire win over Pleasant Hill.

As a long time sports fan, it was great to go watch our teams compete for those district titles. There was also another win for Nevada High School, that might go unnoticed by some. Our NHS students took first in the West Central Conference Academic Knowledge Bowl.

There were several other school-related team activities in recent days. There was a contingent of show choir students, who competed successfully at the State level.

We should all be proud of our local students, in all of their extracurricular activities. All too often we fall into the age-old patterns, that focus on the negatives about our youth. That is most definitely a mistake. Our school’s district is offering a broad range of academic and cultural activities, and these result in showcasing some tremendously talented local kids.

That is not to say there are no education issues to address. Across the nation, we have seen a decline in some areas of career preparation. I recently wrote about the need for more vocational trade programs to not only be included but to be emphasized for their financial prospects.

When thinking of Mr. Wizard, I am also reminded of the decline in the number of science graduates we are producing in this country, compared to the percentages from 50 years ago.

Following the 1957 launch of Sputnik, the first-ever Russian satellite, America found itself in a distant 2nd place in the space race. In the next decade, we not only caught up with them, we far outpaced the Russians to gain the lead in every area of space exploration.

Many of those scientists that jumped into the race to space, often related that their interest in science and engineering, came to them as a direct result of their watching Mr. Wizard each week.

While I was a decent student in school, my best areas were in language, history and sports. Science and math were for me as for many, simply required courses of study. Thankfully, there was a huge contingent of my fellow baby boomer students that did find these fields not only interesting but also career rewarding.

Education is an ongoing process, which always needs to be updated and improved. In our country’s history education is one of the fundamental tenets of our democracy.

Public education was considered not only a right for our youth, our founding fathers actually felt it was the government’s duty to provide our children with education.

For some time now, there has been increased criticism of our schools. Some of our legislators in Jefferson City are offering opinions and changes, that many of the teachers and administrators definitely don’t favor.

Often they cite troubled schools in urban areas as evidence for their proposed changes. To me and many of the educators I talk to, this is mixing apples and oranges.

There are definitely some school districts that are in trouble around the State of Missouri, especially in cities, but that doesn’t correlate to our local schools.

That is where I totally disagree with some of our legislators who want to make radical changes in our education systems and funding, using these metropolitan schools as their evidence. Logic does not support their assertions. Just because a few city school districts have certain issues, it definitely does not mean that our rural schools need to have their systems radically regulated, based on those city school district problems.

I have the following advice for these legislators and critics who want to make these assertions and changes. Come view our local schools out here in rural Missouri. Regarding this request, I want to take a moment to thank our current State Representative Patricia Pike. She was a lifelong educator and has offered a lot of legislation in support of teachers and schools.

It has been my long-standing belief, that good schools are founded upon the bedrock of good teachers. You can have wonderful buildings, books, equipment, and programs, but if you don’t have good teachers, it is all for naught.

Mr. Wizard was a great example of just such a teacher. He made each viewing kid, feel right at home in his lab. There is no better profession than that of teaching, and Mr. Wizard and countless others today continue that vocation.

It is easy to be a complainer and a detractor, especially when it comes to education. It is easy to locate the problem schools and promote their failures as endemic to all schools. That is not only illogical, it is dangerous.

I am so proud of our local school districts in this area. I am also proud of the many dedicated teachers, who like Mr. Wizard, give their hearts and souls to educating our youth.

I will close with this request. Before you complain again about our schools, take time to go and watch our students in their many successful pursuits. Our paper has done a tremendous job in covering these academic successes. Take time to read about this generation. I think you will be surprised. I am sure that Mr. Wizard would have loved to visit our school and teach a little science.