Founded in 1922, the Perrysburg High School student newspaper known affectionately as The Somethin’ is printing its last edition today. It’s not because of financial reasons or educational budget cuts. They’re shutting down my beloved high school newspaper because of the students and their lack of interest.
According to an article in the Toledo Blade, “There just wasn’t enough student interest to warrant the cost. Students now choose other activities and steer away from courses that put an emphasis on intensive writing or reading.” I’ll give you a second to reread that last sentence and contemplate the ramifications.
I’ll give you another second, just in case you’re one of the millions who don’t read and have trouble stringing words together to formulate a sentence in order to extrapolate meaning—because that’s certainly the direction in which we’re headed, according to this atrocious travesty that has befallen Perrysburg’s education system.
I graduated from Perrysburg High School in 2000. I was a member of The Somethin’ staff my junior year and Story Editor my senior year. I had a nice, fancy pile of clippings to submit to prospective colleges, and thanks to my experience, I was admitted to journalism programs at New York University, University of Michigan, and the EW Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University—widely considered one of the best in the country. Would I have been admitted to any of these schools without clippings? No. Would I have ended up as a professional writer without The Somethin’? No. Unequivocally, no.
The Somethin’ classroom was a place where I could hone my craft while surrounded by other journalism students who gave me feedback and helped me develop as a reporter and as a person. It was the place where I learned to be ambitious and “get the story.” Sitting in that classroom … editing the newspaper on my lunch hour … passing out editions on publication day: those memories are the memories I have kept and will keep for the rest of my life, because they indicate the beginning of what would eventually be my career.
I don’t see schools getting rid of math classes. They’re not tossing science out the window because students aren’t interested. Sure, English classes are still hanging on. I’m happy to hear kids still have to read books and write papers. Oh, but then, back to the Blade article: “Putting out a student paper is hard work, and the paper’s editors said their peers seem to have little affinity toward the written word. Mr. Fry [journalism teacher] has trouble getting students in the British literature classes he also teaches to read the classics.”
My fear is that someday English classes will go the way of The Somethin,’ too, because in the opinion of some students, reading books and writing academic papers has no application in real life. It’s nice to spend time with your nose in a book, but reading doesn’t pay the bills. It’s nice to be able to write grammatically correct sentences, but now that phrases like “Cll u l8r” are all the rage, who cares about the proper use of a semi-colon? Will teachers someday allow student interest to warrant all education decisions? Let’s hope not.
I am sick to hear of the final edition of the Perrysburg High School Somethin.’ I think about my Grandpa Schwind and my mom, both of whom also attended PHS and both of whom also received copies of the school newspaper every month. Just like tearing down the old half of the junior high, my hometown is relinquishing another piece of history to the abyss of irrelevance. I once viewed Perrysburg schools as a beacon of hope in a country filled with ignorance. I’m disappointed to say we’re just like everybody else.