The bequest from Dick Kolter to the Winona Area Public Schools came at a great time. Math and science, often the least showy and last departments to attract funds, are finally being recognized for their importance to a good high school education and foundation on which to build careers and a thriving national economy.
It’s sexier to support things like high school sports and such, but Dick Kolter was a math teacher who apparently knew how to use those mathematical formulae to build a hefty nest egg, which he then gave to the school system. The school board and administration are to be congratulated for putting the money where it is needed and where Dick may well have wanted it to go.
If anything in our children’s education has changed, it is the absolute need for better science and math education. The rise of technology in our lives is a given (Anybody remember the scene in the long-ago movie “The Graduate” where Dustin Hoffman is exhorted to go into “plastics”? The remake would have that guy saying “technology”), and our young people are often ill-prepared to embrace the business of technology, although they all know how to use it. My son-in-law, who is in the business of staffing businesses with computer programmers and such, says that his company finds that young Asians are more conversant with programming languages in much larger numbers than in the U.S. Not having the background and tools needed doesn’t bode well for good-paying jobs for our recent grads.
Science and math teachers in the public schools were among the best teachers my kids had. Those teachers were involved and excited about what they taught, and so were my kids. And although not a one went into the field, they had enough grounding in math and science to pick up with ease what they needed to know for their jobs.
In the story in today’s Post about Dick Kolter, Supt. Hannon recalled Kolter having one of the first cell phones he’d seen. Jerry Foster, who taught my kids, had one of the first Mac computers I saw in a school setting — years before other teachers could even begin to try to use one. Foster used the computer so the kids could keep track of the data they collected for their science projects. These guys were technology geeks, a good thing for our kids. And they often had to invest in their own new technology for students, since there were no public funds for such a thing when the technology was brand new.
Once or twice a year, science students get recognition for their science fair projects, and most parents breathe a sigh of relief to have it over with and feel a swell of pride to see their child explaining how locks and dams work or where butterflies go in the winter. Then we forget about science until the next year.
But science and math are the building blocks of our nation’s economy. They not only fuel advances in technology, their concepts are used in all aspects of our lives, including the arts.
Spending Dick Kolter’s generous bequest on enormous upgrades to the math and science wing at Winona Senior High School could mean that all of our kids will have a better start on life after high school and a better chance for success in life.