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The Late Great American Education System

By Charles Johns

This article is not to show how wonderful I am but to demonstrate how bad our education system has become. When I graduated high school in 1962 in Dallas Texas, I had a basic education in math, science, history, and a good knowledge of welding, wood working, and drafting. I took college preparatory courses to include English and had to write my senior theme about, INSURANCE AND ITS RELATION TO FAMILY SECURITY. When I thought trading with my buddy might make things easier, I found his was, THE AMERICAN TWO-PARTY POLITICAL SYSTEM’S EFFECT ON SOCIETY. I learned a lot about insurance. My daughter graduated in 1991, and a news story said her education would need two years college to equal mine. We did not have Google and on-line sources for research, so much time was spent in libraries. Now at 77, I have been a sailor on three aircraft carriers seeing the world, sold major appliances and furniture before going to night school to learn about electronics, and all home entertainment equipment. Having started life in the housing projects, I understood many things others pay to have done I would need to do myself, so I learned about everything I could.

With mechanical and architectural drafting, I learned to make and read blueprints and one must know plumbing and electrical systems to design a house. With metal and wood shops I learned how to work different materials. I am retired, but in my house shop, I have a 1967 Sunbeam Alpine sportscar tilted on its side to do work on the underside. The car is metal, and the tilt-system is wood 2 x 6’s and ¾ inch plywood. A thing called an auto rotisserie is available for about $1,000.00, but my DIY Tilt cost under $100.00, and when finished the bolts, screws, and wood can be reused for other projects. While in the Navy I studied photography, and later took a course in gunsmithing. When I went to work for a city as the shop superintendent, they learned I held a Federal Firearms License and made me Police Department Armorer as well as city photographer. Where one’s education and knowledge take a person in life, cannot be known beforehand.

Building Hot Rods as a hobby at home while working as a TV service tech, learning to do custom car paint work, hammering out dents, pinstriping for pocket change, and writing letters to the editor about political matters, are vastly different, but kept me busy. In over 50 years working I never went more than a few days without a job. Doing multiple jobs makes one necessary and hard to eliminate when times get tough. My wife of 55 years did the same thing…making herself indispensable. She survived three major company personnel cuts. I had no idea my car building hobby would provide my income in hard times. Taking 3 or 4 thousand dollars in car parts and turning them into a valuable custom car can net thousands in profit, though it may take years to see it. One example is a 1932 Ford coupe I built that was featured as a centerfold and cover car in 1976. I sold it, bought a nice 1940 Ford coupe body, and parked it for a few years while I collected parts. I then built it and drove it 12 years as my daily driver. When I decided I wanted something different, I sold it for almost twice what I had invested. So, I drove a car for free over a decade, then got my money back to build another one. This one was a 1965 Mustang. Try that with the wife’s Chevy SUV or your 10-year-old Ford pickup.

The whole point of this written exercise is to inform people we need to fix our education system NOW. Today’s student is indoctrinated with political garbage as opposed to teaching math, science, history, mechanical skills, and common sense. At 14 I had Hot Rod, Car Craft, Motor Trend, and Rod & Custom magazines spread out on the floor looking for an article. My Dad, a machinist, told me, “Son, if you want one of those you better learn how to build it, you sure can’t afford to buy one.” So, over the years I did. In 1989 a wealthy man who loved old cars built me a 4-car heated and air-conditioned garage in my back yard, furnishing it with any tools I did not have, so I could build cars just for him. We drove those cars all over the U.S. and had fun for years with street rods, which are old hot rods modified for daily use with modern conveniences. We even won a few awards. For the “green” people…I built clean running engines and matched motor, transmission, gears, tire size, and weight, for best economy. That 1940 Ford coupe I had used a Ford 289 V8 getting 24 – 25 MPG highway, running the AC hauling 2 corn fed adults, when new cars were getting maybe 18 to 20 MPG. Compacts were getting 25 to 30 MPG, and the sportscar tilted on its side in my shop, should get around 35 MPG at highway speeds and run clean. Education never stops and teachers once taught life skills as they educated us in the basics. I did not realize in my teens I had been given such an education, but I remained curious. I just kept moving forward trying to learn, and though I did not have a solid plan, thankfully my God did. Never stop learning and let us try to get back to old school teaching, where love of the student was more important than politics.

Submitted by Charles Johns, Abilene, TX. Charles is a Navy Veteran that served on three carriers, spent 20 years as a TV tech, 50 years building cars, and 10+ years as a shop superintendent and Police Depart­ment armorer. He graduated from Elkins Institute in Dallas (the same school Rush Limbaugh attended). He holds a Federal Firearms License as a gunsmith, with his own 100-yard gun-range for 21 years. Charles can be reached at or  972-965-5173


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