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The True Test

(ROCKWALL, TX – March 2, 2017) Reelfoot Lake, in northwest Tennessee, came about by a series of earthquakes in 1811 and 1812, and after the land cracked open, water rushed in from the Mississippi River to an extent that folks in Memphis swore Ole’ Man River ran backwards. While explaining myths to my students, I told how the Chickasaw Indians believed Chief Reelfoot stole away a Choctaw bride and her father called on the Great Spirit, resulting in the quake. The land cracked and Reelfoot and his bride fell in as the waters covered them over, making it his namesake. The students laughed, and I asked if the Indians were correct. They thought the question was ridiculous; earthquakes were part of seismic shifts, plate tectonics, and so on and so on.

“Would you say the Chickasaws are unlearned, ignorant?” I asked. Most sheepishly agreed.

“If we were lost in the middle of the wilderness without food or water, who would you want with you, the ‘unlearned’ Chickasaws or the brilliant seismologists?”

Unanimous for the Chickasaws, which led to a discussion of “smarts” and what is “educated” and suddenly everyone realized that although it is important to do good in school and learn geology, there are areas of knowledge that are just as important—a great set of STARR scores can’t fix an air conditioner in the summer.

In a few weeks Texas students will take the STARR to show what they know. Last year my third grade daughter’s stomach ached anticipating the event. As a parent I’ve been concerned that my kids won’t do well, and as a result begin the plummet of a failed life, but as a teacher, I definitely know better. One test on one day cannot possibly be the sole determiner of a kid’s educational abilities. But still we worry, and our kids’ stomachs hurt just like my daughter’s.

I’m a firm believer in a strong education, but I’m also a firm believer in all sorts of intelligence. Some will thrive in academia, some will excel in the arts, and others can put hammer to nail. My boys are not the college-types, but they possess a courage that few own. One is striving toward firefighting, one a Marine, and the third hoping for the Corps as well—they are happiest when faced with challenges many run away from. I’ve coached young men who struggled to read, but when put in a shop with an arc welder, they had no rival.

Obviously, your kid needs to try his best on the test. Without question, she should study hard in school. Yet, ultimately it’s about the values they’ve been taught that will undergird or undercut in whatever they choose. They need to know the courage to face a challenge, determination to continue, the value of hard work, and the glory of honor and integrity. If they figure that out and find something they can do that contributes to this world, then the STARR will seem small potatoes in their measurement and the sky might possibly the limit.

By Scott Gill of Rockwall, teacher, coach and author of Goliath Catfish. Follow Scott’s blog at puptentpapa.blogspot.com and read his “Front Porch Ramblings” at BlueRibbonNews.com.

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