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In Praise Of Jasper High School

  

I do not know if the public fully grasps the distinctiveness of the city of Jasper, how it is fashioned, its various components melded almost seamlessly, to craft a genuinely rewarding environment, particularly for its families and youth. 

I say this because I recognize that many of our citizens are of the soil, which is to say, born and raised here, and so perhaps inured to the special qualities that preside in our fair city; and that as a long standing transplant I may be able to offer insights into its unique qualities, compare it (favorably) with other models, and provide perspective on just how serendipitous a setting those of us who have the privilege of calling Jasper our home find ourselves.

While there are many positive elements that have merged fortuitously to form the notable civic enterprise of Jasper – the business community, hospital, newspaper, local government, university, arts center, associations, leagues, and religious institutions – there is one in particular that I would like to highlight because I have gotten to know it well, having observed my four children pass through its corridors, assemblies, fields, courts, and classrooms.  I refer to our public schools: Fifth Street, Tenth Street, the Middle School, and then, perhaps, its most storied institution, the Jasper High School, which I would like to emphasize.

None of this, by the way, is to diminish the critical role, say, of the hospital or the churches or our businesses, only that none quite rises to the singular, unifying level that the high school achieves.  All, of course, are essential.  But there is only one high school, and so many of its activities and events are central to the life of the town, interwoven into the fabric of the community, which supports them enthusiastically.  Many parents and grandparents have attended the High School, as have many in the faculty; the attachments here, therefore, run deep.  The town, in a word, rallies around its beloved school, and no other institution can claim its integrating mantle. 

When I first arrived in Jasper, I was dubious of the emphasis placed on school sports and other extracurricular activities such as band, and thought that the time and energy were better spent engaged in other, more scholarly exercises. 

But I have come to appreciate the merit of such pursuits, of students actively participating in teams, athletic, musical, or otherwise.  In such efforts, we find students working towards worthy objectives, developing discipline, assuming leadership roles, and meeting challenges.  They form lifelong friendships and have wonderful, shared memories.  When our students perform on the field or on stage against other schools, they represent not only themselves and their families but the school and the town itself.  And they carry that with them, along with a palpable pride in doing so. 

There is much to recommend in this kind of activity at so tender an age, ennobling, character-building endeavors entirely profitable and conducive to building mature and productive citizens, with enhanced abilities to work with others, certainly a critical element of the education enterprise.

The typical sequence is edifying: the event or competition unfolds, attended by friends and families, coaches and teachers, along with other interested members of the community (sometimes numbering in the thousands), encouraging the team, discussing the event afterwards and following it in the paper.  Write-ups of individual students and the team with photographs and stories are read and shared. 

In this way are students motivated to succeed, and the city bound together through the year.  It is a relationship between town and school that fosters enduring, positive values.

All this I now see as healthy and good, almost an anachronism, a quaint throwback to another era, of a more innocent and, I believe, virtuous America, a small town America that taught abiding principles and formed the bedrock of our society - before the advent of MTV, moral relativism, and the post-modern assaults on our culture and traditions.  Here, we find duty, responsibility, and pursuing goals greater than the self extolled; elsewhere, it may be something else.

During my high school years in the Bronx, the various extracurricular school functions were met largely by indifference or condescension.  In larger towns or cities, there were other options to entice beyond “mere” high school sports or band, yet I would defend the advantages of the Jasper High School experience over my own and, I suspect, that of most other locales as well. 

Indeed, we missed out.

Oh, did I forget?  The schools do not neglect their most critical function of educating our children.  Rather, they excel. 

In other words, they do it all. 

I would like to congratulate our city of Jasper, in particular, its schools, and most especially, its high school. 

If I may (as a newly christened Wild Cat fan) recite an ancient invocation:

“Go Cats Go!”

 

Comments

  • Michael Owen

    January 23, 2012

    Very well written Richard. I believe this is a message that many of our Jasper High School graduates of recent years need to read and understand as they trudge through their increasingly more complicated adult lives.

  • Harvey Chaimowitz

    January 23, 2012

    I envy the life hinted at in this polished paean. Had I been a product of such a life, I wouldn't be here, on deathrow, waiting to hear from my lawyer how the governor responds to our plea. Tell the good children of Jasper not to copy me, however I am portrayed in the media. When they escort me down the hall and ask for my last words, I will say, "Don't throw poison pies at Gingrich. I knew the slob would lick his lips, but I fooled myself into believing I'd get away with it. Stay in school and learn the violin. Go to Harvard and run for President. Make them proud to be from Jasper."

  • Conchita Krodel

    January 23, 2012

    Amen..I agree with you.

  • Conchita Krodel

    January 23, 2012

    Amen..I agree with you.

  • Rita Bieker

    January 23, 2012

    As I so fondly read the story of small towns, schools and the team spirit, I am reminded of my up bringing. I was never a sports minded child but I have always loved music and I feel if it had not been for band and my beloved band teacher Mr. Bolte who took this poor, downtrodden, wrong side of the tracks girl and told me that I could achieve a better place in this world also if I would just try to believe in myself I could accomplish much. I believed in him and not so long began believeing in myself. So like you Doc, I must say hats off to all the small town schools, but mainly their faculty who can see promise in students who may not have wealth, self esteeem or great grades and mold them into what I feel I have become. An outgoing, caring, no so bad clarinet player. Thanks Doc for an uplifting tribute to those who care and God Bless You for caring.

  • Rita Bieker

    January 23, 2012

    As I so fondly read the story of small towns, schools and the team spirit, I am reminded of my up bringing. I was never a sports minded child but I have always loved music and I feel if it had not been for band and my beloved band teacher Mr. Bolte who took this poor, downtrodden, wrong side of the tracks girl and told me that I could achieve a better place in this world also if I would just try to believe in myself I could accomplish much. I believed in him and not so long after began believeing in myself. So like you Doc, I must say hats off to all the small town schools, but mainly their faculty who can see promise in students who may not have wealth, self esteeem or great grades and mold them into what I feel I have become. An outgoing, caring, no so bad clarinet player. Thanks Doc for an uplifting tribute to those who care and God Bless You for caring.

  • Rita Bieker

    January 23, 2012

    As I so fondly read the story of small towns, schools and the team spirit, I am reminded of my up bringing. I was never a sports minded child but I have always loved music and I feel if it had not been for band and my beloved band teacher Mr. Bolte who took this poor, downtrodden, wrong side of the tracks girl and told me that I could achieve a better place in this world also if I would just try to believe in myself I could accomplish much. I believed in him and not so long after began believeing in myself. So like you Doc, I must say hats off to all the small town schools, but mainly their faculty who can see promise in students who may not have wealth, self esteeem or great grades and mold them into what I feel I have become. An outgoing, caring, no so bad clarinet player. Thanks Doc for an uplifting tribute to those who care and God Bless You for caring.

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