"Talking" Walls: Chalk One Up for History

You've often heard the phrase, "If these walls could talk" or pick the inanimate item of your choice you'd like to converse with. This story isn't recent was I just ran across it thanks to a text from my son. About four years ago Emerson High School in Oklahoma City (which dates back to the founding of the city itself) was undergoing some much-needed renovation. Pulling down old blackboards to put in the "new and improved" Smart Boards the workers made an astounding discovery when original blackboards were revealed with complete lessons from 1917. Drawings in colored chalk were still vibrant and the writing was perfectly legible, if you can read cursive, of course. The State of Oklahoma entered the union only 10 years earlier, and here was this lesson perfectly preserved like opening a nearly 100-year-old time capsule. There were illustrations celebrating Thanksgiving when that was taught. Principal Sherry Kishore was astounded to see how lessons they still teach today (except cursive writing of course--why would we need that???) but the way it was taught then, including a wheel teaching an outdated method of multiplication. Kishore admitted she'd never seen that technique in her life.

One of the more interesting aspects was a different way to teaching the Pledge of Allegiance which read, "I give my head, my heart, and my life to my God and One nation indivisible with justice for all." No one is quite sure why that pledge differed from the early version that was established in 1892 but one can see the similarities with phraseology of the Pledge. When Principal Kishore showed the board to her 85-year-old mother, the familiar curriculum left her speechless. She actually started to cry saying it was, "Exactly like her classroom was when she was going to school in the mid-to-late 1930's. That was back in the days when they taught reading and writing and arithmetic, and how to think, not what to think. The Pledge of Allegiance and love of country and God was welcomed. No school shootings, very few discipline problems and kids were taught about the importance of health and work had to be neat. Penmanship was paramount because work had to be legible for teachers and other students alike. The so-called "progressives" (a-k-a communists) who began taking over public education in the 30's started dumbing down the curriculum by eliminating Latin, the root of all languages, cursive writing and expelling God just to name a few. Letters and thank-you notes I sometimes receive from my grandkids or students are almost never written in cursive anymore and eve nthe printing is pathetic. It isn't very neat and writing in a straight line must have also gone by the wayside. Oh, by the way, these kids in the "old days" could also read an analog clock. A friend of mine who teaches at St. Andrew's has an analog clock in his class and when he gives a test he has to put a diagram on the board showing what the clock will look like when a test is over!

To the school district's credit they have decided to preserve these boards and not erase them or cover them up like the cretins in San Francisco that covered up a 70-plus-year-old mural that depicted our early history that was now "disturbing" some of these delicate little ones who can't function without an i-Phone or i-Pad. At least cooler heads prevailed there and they simply covered it up and did not paint it over after some protest.

Discovery of these boards reminds me that progress isn't always progress. Perhaps the new Smart Boards will fix this even though they are thousands and thousands of dollars more than plain old blackboards...which were actually a dark green when I was going to school back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. As I recall, chalk worked perfectly and lasted for a long time. For a couple of bucks a year's supply of chalk came in a single box. When the white dry erase boards came along the makers were not only very expensive they made up for it by not lasting very long. Might have looked prettier but it didn't improve the quality of learning. So kudos to the school authorities in Oklahoma City for preserving history instead of destroying it.

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