Classroom Nostalgia

- or -

Lyman Ward Military Academy
and the Outside World

An Open Letter about Teaching from John Strunk , LWMA Faculty, 1967 - 1974

    If you will permit me, I would like to add some comments about drugs, shootings, etc. in public schools from a teacher's perspective.

    I began my teaching career at LWMA in 1967, and I have to say, in retrospect, that my years there were the best of my life. Because I was needed in Tennessee to help my family, I had to leave LWMA in 1974, but I have always missed the school. When I returned to my hometown, I took a teaching position in the local high school and have been relatively happy. However, I have seen many changes in the classroom since I began teaching in public school, and most of them have been bad.

     In public schools there has been a continual erosion of discipline and respect for authority, without which education cannot occur. In legislation and court decisions, our legislators and judges are constantly emphasizing the rights of the individual, and unfortunately, this philosophy has been carried to an extreme and has destroyed the schools' ability to maintain discipline and order. Generally, students will do only what they have to do, what is demanded of them, and in most public schools, if not all of them, teachers and administrators are powerless to insist that students behave and do their work. Also in many cases, parents are not supportive of teachers; their children rule their homes many times telling parents what to do.

     I look back to my tenure at LWMA and fondly remember doing serious teaching and demanding that my students achieve for which hopefully they were grateful when they were sufficiently mature to realize what we teachers were trying to do on their behalf.

     It's not that teachers in public schools aren't trying to teach, and it's not that we don't have some fantastic young people as students; most of my students are wonderful individuals. It's that public school teachers and administrators are disempowered. We have been legally rendered ineffective.

     As an educator of 32 years I see the current situation in public schools as a dark omen of still worse things to come for our democracy without an educated populace.

     I certainly miss my classroom at LWMA and have missed it since the day that I left. I think that LWMA does an extraordinary job of preparing young men to effectively function in life by teaching them perimeters of acceptable behavior and holding them to high standards of behavior and by teaching them to be responsible for their actions.

     Most of my former colleagues at LWMA and I still correspond and often discuss LWMA, and the consensus of opinion among us is that we feel that we accomplished much as educators at LWMA. I wish that I had that feeling today!

   Thanks for allowing me to add my comments in praise of LWMA.

May 24, 1999

John Strunk
Harriman High School
Harriman, TN 37748

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