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Ramblings - Education Can Be Fun?
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The seasons move on. The schools are back in session. We're headed toward Friday night football, cold and rain, and Christmas. Forget shopping. Did you know Riverbank officials are already planning the Christmas parade? "But not yet, not yet," as the hero's friend in the movie Gladiator says. The summer crickets are still calling, metaphorically, and doves still cooing across town.

There is no getting away from school for me although my kids left it long ago. I live on an Escalon street leading to the elementary school and the parade of cars passing the door and children straggling on foot to the classroom remind me each morning it's about 8 a.m. and time to face the day.

These children are still bent over beneath heavy backpacks. What happened to the idea that it's bad for their posture; that computers and two sets of books, one at school and the other at home, would make backpacks obsolete? Funding, I would guess, or rather the lack of it.

Then there's the procession of vehicles, back and forth, back and forth, at set times of day. They're like some insects or lemmings headed for a cliff. A few minutes ago the town was noisy and clogged with traffic. Now there's just the occasional car of a latecomer.

The other day, an air pollution expert suggested to the Riverbank City Council that parents should try to coordinate and carpool their progeny to school, taking turns to transport their friends' kids besides their own. That will be the day! Citizens of the land of the free give up their right to drive everywhere in their metal (and plastic) capsules. You're joking.

School buses, however, anchor the system and continue to function. We should be grateful.

School is a marvelous idea. It gives parents the choice to work to financially support their families. It meets the government's needs to raise an educated citizenry capable of skilled work to pay taxes and keep the country competitive among rival nations. And, education can be fun for the individual.

Recently, I was watching some local teachers at work. They happened to be an English/drama teacher and a music instructor. But then I find subjects like math tedious, am addicted to the arts and promote them every chance I get.

At Riverbank High School, Stacy Blevins along with stagecraft teacher Al Scoles were preparing for a public presentation of Shakespeare's Macbeth that the drama department will give in a couple of months. Blevins was screening film clips she had collected of costumes and sets from previous stagings of Macbeth and inviting comments and suggestions from her students on what they could use for the Riverbank High production.

The interesting thing was she was inviting them, not just to watch pictures on a screen, but to think, imagine, create and do all the things that education is supposed to do.

Scoles was throwing in suggestions because students in his class will be charged with actually sawing, painting and putting together the stage sets besides arranging the lighting and throwing the pattern of light and shade that will enhance the characters.

Blevins, by the way, says the arts is a precarious way of making a living and few or none of her students will become a star of stage or screen. But the currently booming entertainment industry in movies, television and film is creating a lot of jobs on the production side in everything from lighting engineer to simple stagehand.

The next day, while visiting a classroom at Cardozo Middle School, I had the chance to see music teacher Dave Howard teaching the recorder. The number of his students was enormous, about 45 sixth graders. But he had the students well in hand and his enthusiasm was infectious. It was very important, he said later, to instill a love of music at an early age.

It's not just ABC's anymore ... and that makes education fun.

John Branch is editor of The Riverbank News and a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at or 847-3021.