Swickard: Practical ideas for public schools

© 2016 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.  When I make suggestions to public schools I usually get two rejections: one for that idea and another for whatever I think of next. It doesn’t stop me. In fact, here are two rejected ideas from the last few years.
            The simpler one is to add table tennis to public schools. While teaching at Albuquerque High School in the 1970s we started an afterschool table tennis team which had about seventy regular members. The rules had to be followed but there were no academic requirements.
            Students could play table tennis in a sixteen team league. At the time I was a tournament table tennis player so I was good, having learned the game at age seven in Japan.
            Here’s the pitch to my local school district: it doesn’t require language, gender, size or ethnic origins. But it does require that participants not drink alcohol or take drugs. The eye/hand requirements are such that participants cannot play when impaired.
            I found with the team at Albuquerque High that those students were very competitive but for behavior or grades or lack of sufficient ability could not traditionally compete. In table tennis they found something they could master fairly well in a few months and then could compete with others in their same skill level.
            It kept kids in high school. Years later when I tried to get my local school district to start it in elementary school and continue through high school, I was told it wasn’t football so forget it.
            Another idea. Back in the 1950s as a small child I was living at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. I witnessed the Air Force Thunderbirds come over at about 500 feet and several hundred miles an hour.
            As I looked up with five-year-old eyes I thought, and still do, flying is wonderful. Then I was able to get deeper into this realm when America decided to put men on the Moon. John Glenn orbited the Earth three times. I built models of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo craft and breathlessly followed.
            One of my suggestions a few years ago to my local school district is that they start building the dream of flying for students. Consider that we, as a nation, are running out of private pilots because young people are not going into aviation as they have in the past.
            This last weekend members of an experimental aircraft association took several students up flying which is great. What I have pitched a couple times and got rejected was in fourth grade to introduce flight simulator software with inexpensive yoke and pedals to students who are interested.
            Microsoft make a Flight Simulator that teaches flying nicely. The yoke and rudder petals are cheap so there is not much investment in each classroom.
            If students start in fourth grade, by sixth grade they can join Civil Air Patrol where they will learn lots about aviation and probably get some rides in airplanes. By eighth grade they can solo in a glider and get a glider license to fly. Finally, by the time they are sixteen they can get a pilot’s license. Wow! Almost before they get a license to drive they can be flying.
            A former squadron commander of Civil Air Patrol liked the idea and thought that he and his colleagues would be glad to help teachers learn the flight simulator and how to help students learn from the program.
            The people in the public schools rejected this because flying is not on the accountability tests so it would take students away from doing better on tests. Really? Right now many students are bored out of their minds with the mania for testing: learn an answer, give an answer, learn an answer, etc.
            How would it change a generation of students who want to experience flight? It would be a motivator to learn math and other concepts that flying use. Further, no one who flies sees the Earth the same as they did before they flew.
            Both table tennis and flying would add lots of sizzle to the school day for interested students but are rejected as activities for not being on the accountability tests. Perhaps practical interesting things should be.
 Email: drswickard@comcast.net - Swickard’s new novel about New Mexico, Hideaway Hills,is now available at Amazon.com