By A. Ray Lee
August has arrived much too soon for many youth who have enjoyed leisure summer days away from the discipline of schedules and studies which they will once again face with a return to the classroom or while they spend difficult hours before a computer doing remote studies. Heavily invested parents will have mixed feelings wondering how their own schedules will be impacted by the uncertainties they may face in the months ahead if there is another shutdown of school facilities. In a time when much in life depends upon a formal education or paper certification thereof, the disruption of the past two years has caused widespread concern and anxiety.
School days have vastly changed since September 1942 when I entered first grade in Falkville. Head-start programs and kindergartens were unheard of in rural Alabama. The only homeschooling I had received had been to learn how to count one through ten and to print the numbers on a small handheld slate board. J. J. had attempted to teach me how to spell some simple words, but had soon put that project to rest when he instructed me to spell mule and I had replied “m-a-r-e mule”.
To say my introduction to the academic world was inauspicious would be a great understatement. I was enrolled in the first grade over the strenuous objection of Miss Patterson because my sixth birthday would not occur until several months beyond the established deadline for beginning students. The first years had been difficult for me yet I had managed to prevail with fellow students until twelve years later. In 1954 I was awarded a general diploma from Falkville High School (Go Blue Devils!). Because of the small enrollment, we did not have exposure to advanced studies in any field of learning.
Though I might have been lacking in academic learning it did not mean I failed to attain an education. In the classroom I gained a solid moral foundation for life that has served me well. Each school day began with the pledge of alliance to the American flag followed by a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. The Ten Commandments were not inscribed upon some plaque adorning a wall but were etched upon the tablet of my heart. Civic pride and duty were encouraged. A sense of community was built upon friendships that have lasted. Loyalty to institutions and worthy organizations was commended. Respect for all that is sacred was instilled in the core of my being.
In the years following high school, I earned degrees from college and graduate school. Through the years I have continued to participate in advanced studies and have been an avid reader. But none of these have been as important in guiding my life as those values that early in life I learned at Falkville.
“Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.” (Proverbs 7:3-4)