OPINION: Summer — and its wasted potential — is upon usNormally, if I am going to reference some historical or literary figure in one of these columns, I do it with a direct quote. And I actually do have a direct quote for the person in question, but the person in question is Gen. George S. Patton, and using his quotes will sometimes get you kicked out of a family newspaper and usually involve you in some other sort of unrelated controversy that never really allows you to get to the point.
By: Joe Graves, The Daily Republic
Normally, if I am going to reference some historical or literary figure in one of these columns, I do it with a direct quote. And I actually do have a direct quote for the person in question, but the person in question is Gen. George S. Patton, and using his quotes will sometimes get you kicked out of a family newspaper and usually involve you in some other sort of unrelated controversy that never really allows you to get to the point.
Thus, instead of a direct quote, I’ll just do a bit of paraphrasing.
When Patton had taken his Third Army into and through Germany toward the end of World War II, his forces were having so much success and, by that time, meeting so little resistance that the only thing that could stop him was Eisenhower, who did so in order to keep Patton from capturing territory in Eastern Europe then designated for liberation by the Soviets.
Patton was not particularly pleased with this interruption in his forward progress and soon after began arguing that essentially the war was being lost in that, though Germany was defeated, huge swaths of Europe were being freed from one hostile, occupying force only to be handed over to another. He argued, though in words he specifically stated were “off the record,” that the war should continue, now against the Soviet Union.
Some have argued over the last decade that he was right. Most thought then, though, that Patton just couldn’t bear to let an army that good go to waste and that as long as he had it, he really ought to use it for something. All those welltrained, well-disciplined, wellsupplied, well-armed men sitting in a combat zone and we expected Patton to just send them home?
OK, I realize comparing an army to a school is an ill-fitting analogy at best, but the truth is, this time of year, I know a little bit how Patton felt. The Mitchell School District has seven well-maintained, climate-controlled K-12 school buildings ready for students to occupy. We have 200 well-trained content specialists ready to teach the children of this community. Over half of them have master’s degrees and each and every one of them is fully endorsed and highly qualified for the position they hold. They are led by eight principals with vast experience both in the classroom and the administrative office. They are assisted by scores of teacher assistants, librarians, custodians, maintenance employees, cooks, secretaries and bus drivers all at the ready to perform their jobs with skill and commitment. Our bus fleet is serviced, inspected and ready to roll. The Mitchell schools, like the 150-plus other school districts in this state, have invested large sums of public dollars and enormous amounts of time, talent and energy into creating a vast educational enterprise devoted to preparing this community’s and this state’s youth for a bright American future.
And one week from today, we are going to turn off the key, climb down out of the driver’s seat, and let her sit for three solid months. What other economic enterprise or human endeavor would willingly build an immense operating capacity and then leave it idle for three months out of the year for no logical reason? Any other enterprise would seek out ways to utilize that unused capacity, to capitalize on what was being wasted, to improve the productivity and efficiency of their operation. But in schools, we don’t. Year after year, summer after summer, we just don’t.
Thus bringing me to several other Patton quotes which, in a family newspaper, I can’t even paraphrase.