It's the quality of education that counts, not the name on the plaque


Recently there has been extended discussion about what names go on bronze plaques. I would like to contribute some thoughts to this process. Most of them are not mine, but come from the book of Ecclesiastes.

While the book of Ecclesiastes does not specifically talk of bronze plaques, there are verses that are relevant to the discussion.

2:60 - For the wise men like the fool will not be long remembered. In the days to come both will be forgotten. Like the fool the wise man must die.

1:11 - There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.


People, go into Oak Hill Cemetery and wander among the tombstones. Look at the names. Who are these people? Were they good people are bad people? Was the community better or worse because of their existence?

We know nothing of these people and future generations will know nothing of us, no matter how many times we have our names on bronze plaques posted in the schools of Washington County.

People, what is the point of us arguing about bronze plaques? The names on the plaques will be forgotten and, should the plaques last long enough, eventually even the language will be forgotten.

Why do we feel that names on bronze plaques are an issue worth discussing at length?

Again, from Ecclesiastes:

5:15 - Naked a man comes from his mother's womb and as he comes so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand.

3:22 - So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?

Our legacy is not how many bronze plaques our names appear on but rather how many well-educated students graduate from the Washington County public schools. Our legacy to the students who are entrusted to our education is not to leave them bronze plaques inscribed with our names but to give them knowledge and wisdom.

7:12 - Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter but the advantage of knowledge is this, that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.

If we create a system that imparts both knowledge and wisdom to the students of the Washington County Public School System, that is the greatest legacy we can give. Bronze plaques will not enrich the lives of our students.

Education and wisdom will give them the knowledge to make their lives more enjoyable and to protect them from those who would take advantage of them.

Education and wisdom will help our students evaluate choices in times of emergencies, and in general education will enable our students and their children to have richer, fuller, more satisfying lives. That, and not a name on a bronze plaque must be our legacy.

We must also accept the fact that all these children whose lives we improve will never know that we, and in this word "we" I include all of the staff, are the ones who deserve credit for having improved their lives.

In summary, with a little help from a far better speechwriter than any of us:

The world will little note, nor long remember how many bronze plaques we erect here, but, if we continue improving our world-class school system, our students will be among those who make the discoveries and create the inventions that will improve the lives of all peoples in the world. In such case, even though the world will not know our names, the world will long remember what we did here.

Russell Williams is a candidate for the Washington County Board of Education.

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