By Mike RuffinI was a member of the Lamar County High School Class of 1976, the first class to graduate from the new high school.Yep, I still call the campus on Trojan Way ‘the new high school.’Well, take me to dinner and call me dated!I didn’t actually attend the new high school, though. I entered Mercer University after my junior year. But I did come back to graduate with my class. I don’t know how they felt about it. I didn’t ask. I’m glad they tolerated me.Those who were in school during the first few years of desegregation, which began in Lamar County with the 1970-71 school year (seventh grade for me), remember that racial integration gave way to gender segregation.The stated reason for that was, as I recall, that there was no facility large enough to house a co-ed high school. Interestingly, though, they put boys and girls back together in the 1974-75 school year, which was the year before the new high school opened. All of a sudden, the Forsyth Road School (formerly Booker T. Washington School) was large enough to hold not only a co-ed high school, but the middle school grades as well.Go figure.I don’t remember when I first heard that plans were being made to build a new high school. I do remember that the vote on the bond referendum to fund its construction was controversial. I remember hoping and praying that it would pass, because I knew we needed a new facility.My father, the late great Champ Ruffin, was back then a member of the now defunct Lamar Civic League. One night he returned from a meeting visibly upset.’What’ wrong?’ my mother asked. ‘Oh, somebody did a program about how we ought to oppose the school bond referendum. When he finished, I pointed out that I had a child in the school system and he didn’t, and that I resented his program.Nobody backed me up, so I told them they could have their club, and I walked out.’’Champ, you didn’t.’That little smile that indicated he knew that he might have done wrong, but was glad he’d done it anyway, crept onto his face.’Yeah, I did.’And he never went back. My education, and the education of all the other children in Lamar County, was important to my father. Thankfully, it was important to lots of other people, too, and so the bond referendum passed.I also believe in education. I especially believe in public education. I believe that education is the best way out of the various messes our nation and our world find ourselves in.To be more precise, I believe that we need broad, sweeping, excellent, amazing, worldencompassing education. I mean, think about it.Ignorance and misunderstanding lie beneath most of the problems and tensions with which we deal. We need to make sure that American young people learn all the science and math they possibly can. We also need to make sure they learn all they can about history, literature, religion, and culturethose of America and those of other people and places, including non-Western societies.The more we grow in our understanding of each other, the more likely we are to develop and maintain peaceful, helpful and productive relationships. In the film The Martian, when Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) realizes he’s been stranded on Mars, he says, ‘I’m gonna have to science the [crap] out of this.’When I look at the nation and the world, I say, ‘We’re gonna have to educate the crap out of this.’ Mike Ruffin is a Barnesville native and graduate of Lamar County High School. He and his wife Debra live on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville. He is the Connections Curriculum Editor with Smyth & Helwys Publishing in Macon and Interim Pastor of The Rock Baptist Church.His latest book, Luke: Parables for the Journey, is available at helwys.com and online booksellers.
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