July 25, 2012 — The editor:
How many readers have ever seen these rare species? Hazel Green Bullfrogs, Fredonia Yellowjackets, Greenville Black Hawks. You had better look fast because they are disappearing because of one of the worst decisions ever made about education in this country: school consolidation.
These were the names of the teams of the small independent schools that were absorbed into huge centralized schools. Two generations later, people have realized that was a mistake with frightening unintended consequences.
Large schools encourage anonymity and a mob mentality that is promulgated by that anonymity. Drugs, weapons, gangs, assaults, tobacco and alcohol abuse flourish in these large schools because students can escape detection based on sheer weight of numbers. If I saw a student smoking in the restroom at Lafayette, I had little chance of getting him to the office if I did not know his name. A random search at any large school would turn up several of the items listed. Schools spend money for law enforcement and security cameras, yet the problems persist.
Add to that the sense of disenfranchisement and apathy rooted in the belief that no one really cares how a student does in school because they blends into a faceless background. I attended Wayne County High School in the early seventies with about 150 people in the graduating class and maybe 600 overall. Everybody knew everybody else. If a student was having problems in school or out of school, concerned teachers and staff were aware of the situation and tried to help. Peer pressure to behave properly was a significant deterrent to bad behavior. I never heard of anyone being suspended or expelled, not did I hear of teachers taking “mental days” to recover from the combat zone mentality that permeates schools today.
Consolidation destroyed education in more subtle ways. Our high school basketball team played about seven other high schools in Pulaski County, e.g. Nancy, Shopville, Lily. Each of these team played twelve boys for a total of 84 players actively involved. Now there are three high schools in Pulaski County with a total of 36 players. A lot of Kentucky boys dream of playing basketball for a school, but consolidation has diminished the possibility for most boys.