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Great expectations for children

(ran HT edition)

Charlotte Graham believes in education. It has been integral to her entire life, as evidenced by three degrees: a bachelor of arts degree from Parks College in Missouri, a bachelor of science degree in teaching from Winona State University in Minnesota, and a master's degree in social work at Washington University in St. Louis.

"There was never any question that my two brothers and I would seek higher education. My parents met while they were students at the University of Missouri, and my father was the first person in the country to earn a doctorate in journalism," Graham said.

She remembers getting up at 4:30 a.m. to serve on the breakfast crew at Parks College, and working as a secretary in the English department for the two years before graduation. Charlotte also earned some scholarship money and was determined to stay in school.

Having taught freshman English for three years, and spent many more years in social work, Graham has many concerns about the education of American children. She was pleased with President Clinton's emphasis on education in his recent State of the Union address.

"I thought it was important to give every student an opportunity to go to college eventually, but I think it is even more important to see to it that high school graduates are equipped with the skills they need to apply for college or enter the work force," Graham said.

"I know I must sound like one of those awful old people who criticize too much, but I honestly believe the amount of education we require of students in this country has been consistently reduced. Each generation has been willing to accept less and less of their kids."

Graham says the need for change occurs not so much in the testing and teaching, but in our expectations of students.

"I have been very impressed by the dedication of many of our teachers, but when I see a bumper sticker that says, "My kid beat up your honor student', I know that parent is not encouraging his child to be all he can be."

Graham and her husband, Douglas, retired here in 1990. Her husband worked many years as producer and editor of Time/Life Books and as executive producer of Time/Life Music.

Graham believes another issue that needs to be looked at is funding. "I think there are many misunderstandings among taxpayers, older people, administrators, teachers and parents. I would like to see a committee formed in our county, composed of all of these people, eager to share solutions and explore possibilities. We need people who are willing to hear and understand the constraints of one another, to be supportive and willing to put an end to blaming. I am sure educational standards would be raised to the point where our kids could compete with children around the world."

Graham said she was appalled to learn Florida is 17th among the 50 states in income, but 47th in services to children. "I was also amazed to hear a few years ago, that there weren't enough text books in Hernando County schools for children to take textbooks home for homework."

"I think older people have to realize they have a significant stake in education. Our children are the future of America."

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