Marva Collins and blackboard magic

Marva Collins
News Headline: “Marva Collins, ‘a natural force in inner city education,’ dies at 78.”
Nearly 40 years ago, this reporter, newly hired at the Chicago Sun-Times, arranged for essays to be written by an average English class at an average suburban high school.
It was for Shakespeare’s birthday.
The students were asked to tell who Shakespeare was and why we should remember him.
One of the students vaguely recalled that Shakespeare was the guy who made the fishing rods and reels. Other students didn’t do much better than that.
A story ran in the day’s editions.
A letter arrived in a couple of days.
It was from someone named Marva Collins.
She said she was a teacher at a one-room school she had started in “the allegedly fetid ghetto” of Garfield Park.
She said her young students not only knew who Shakespeare was but could recite passages and tell the stories.
There was a knock on her door the next day.
And then came another story.
The headline was: “BLACKBOARD MAGIC: Teacher works wonders in inner city.”
The wires and other newspapers picked it up. So did TV, including, after a while,
“60 Minutes.”
Offers of support came in. Prince, before he was the artist formerly known as Prince, sent $500,000.
Collins moved the Westside Preparatory School to a building on Chicago Avenue with a number of classrooms and teachers–all teachers trained in her ways.
What were the ways at Westside Prep?
Marva Collins simply taught as teachers had taught a century before. Nothing fancy, no audio-visual equipment. Or as she put it:
“This is all you need for teaching: books, a blackboard and a pair of legs that will last through the day.”
Collins taught pride of accomplishment. And she taught reading–nothing, at first, but reading.
Other studies could wait until the reading skills were there. And when the other studies came, the children were taught at levels far more challenging than the norm.
Or as she put it:
“If you can read, everything else follows. If you can’t read, nothing else follows.”
And the word continued to spread.
Teachers and administrators came from all over the nation–everywhere but the Chicago Public Schools–to study her school.
A TV movie was made–“Welcome to Success: The Marva Collins Story”–starring Cicely Tyson and Morgan Freeman.
President Reagan offered her the post of secretary of education. She politely declined. She was too busy in the classroom.
She finally retired–if a natural force can be said to retire–to South Carolina.
She died this week at 78.
The time finally comes.
You rest now, Marva Collins.

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Repeal and replace. . . .

Obamacare
President Obama regarding Obamacare after the Supreme Court upheld its subsidies:
“This has never been a government takeover of health care.”
It isn’t often we hear a politician state so clearly what still needs to be accomplished.

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Don’t know much about history. . . .

Threat Level
News Headline: “House Intel Committee chair: U.S. is at ‘the highest threat level we have ever faced in the country.’ ”
Kids, go get grandpa, who grew up during World War II and then spent many years knowing the Soviets could vaporize us on a half-hour’s notice, and show him this story.
Grandpa can always use a good laugh.

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