Thanks for your reply, David. I appreciate your candid comments. It was helpful to know that my views are not just those of a grumpy misanthropic sixty-five year old. I’m a father of five and a grandfather of, well . . . . .many, and I know how important it is for kids to not feel singled out from their peers because they are different in some way. South Lodge did that to us and we have paid a price for it mainly, I believe, in later feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. I, too, have struggled with the same things, as you have.
Excuses notwithstanding, we obviously came to the same realization that we couldn’t let anything stand in the way of our goals, and not kowtow to the many who had said “you’re not capable of doing that”. I hope that other former pupils will read the posts on this site and choose to share their experiences too. There must be lots of positive feedback out there just waiting to appear.
You’re right, David - we didn’t have a science teacher. We never had a mathematics teacher either. The closest we got was “arithmetic” right up to our leaving South Lodge at the mandatory age of sixteen. I wouldn’t have known what a sine, cosine, logarithm or square root was at that time if my life depended on it. If we wanted to learn any science, we were on our own. Astronomy was my consuming interest at the time. I remember on one occasion when I was fifteen, I was so disgruntled with the regular pedagogical pablum being dispensed by Miss Freeman that I took a biography of Isaac Newton into class and defiantly read it behind an upturned book while she continued talking to the other pupils. It didn’t do me much good, though! She caught me and my book was confiscated, after which I was severely upbraided in front of the class. On another occasion, I had used the phrase “visibly stratified” in a piece we were required to write on coal seams. Miss Freeman told me to remove those words because I “couldn’t possibly understand what they mean”. Combine the above with our having to sing “Dobbin’s Goodnight Song” (and this when we were in our mid-teens) along with other similar ditties while Miss Whitehead played along on the piano, to be followed by “dancing” class and then “gardening” and “cooking” classes . . . and the philosophy of the time becomes painfully apparent – every one of us was simply counted as not capable of benefiting from a normal education, irrespective of whether our vision problems permitted it or not.
As has been mentioned by others on this site, South Lodge did offer a very good and necessary service –BUT ONLY TO THOSE WHO NEEDED IT. I recall a number of pupils with serious sight problems who could not read normal size text or see the blackboard, however close they came. I recall one young lad from Fleckney, I believe, who had minimal vision. Miss Whitehead, herself blind, would teach him Braille because it was obvious he was going to need it. Without South Lodge, I doubt that he, and others like him, would have received that tuition, and I applaud the educators of the time for making such a service available. But for those who could read normal size print, and there were many, and for those who could see the blackboard from the rear of the class, South Lodge was the wrong place to be. Perhaps the fact that it has now been closed results from a recognition that it really didn’t work for the majority of pupils in the long run. I sincerely hope that no future Boards of Education get it into their heads to segregate mildly disabled children from the main stream in this way. In my experience, it simply didn’t contribute to building confident and contributing men and women, and after all, that is what education is all about.
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