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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mary Turner Lane, September 9 and 16, 1986; May 21, 1987; October 1 and 28, 1987. Interview L-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Changes in education as community schools have disappeared

Lane evaluates the ways that school communities have changed since she was young. Though she recognizes some of the benefits of the new systems, she also believes that children have lost some of the sense of belonging and identity than they used to have.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mary Turner Lane, September 9 and 16, 1986; May 21, 1987; October 1 and 28, 1987. Interview L-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

PAMELA DEAN:
Back to your father for a moment: did he go through high school?
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes.
PAMELA DEAN:
What school was that? Was it a private school?
MARY TURNER LANE:
No. New Bern High School. He and Mother would both have attended that school. Interestingly enough, when I went to school, my brother and I went to the same school in New Bern, the same elementary school, and we had the same teachers that they had, so tradition was long in that little town. And these were all spinsters, all known by their first names. And there was never any question when we went to school as to who we were, and what was expected of us. Because we were Mary and Albert Willis's children, and we had to behave in particular ways. And this is something that we know we've moved away from completely, today, in terms of schooling in the same place, schooling with the same teachers, people in the community who knew exactly who we were and who helped set up standards for us. That's another story; I could go a long way on that one.
PAMELA DEAN:
Do you think that that sort of change is a loss?
MARY TURNER LANE:
Well, I think it's like all change: there are positive things about it, and there are very negative things about it. I've done a lot of research on how we acquire our values, and what some of the problems are with youngsters today, and in the past, we always saw a number of institutions as being responsible for helping individual children acquire beliefs and values. And we always said the family, the home, the school, the neighborhood, the community, the church, et cetera. Well, in that case, in that setting, it was certainly true that all of those institutions operated as tempering forces on us, and on all children, because neighbors would let you know exactly what was expected of you, as would Sunday school teachers, as would schoolteachers, as would all parts of the community. Today, children not only do not have these other influences, but in many cases, the influence of the home has been diminished too. So I think there's some values, perhaps, for the anonymity in which we grow up, but there are also some values about being known, and about having an identity, and about knowing some of those things for which that identity stands.
PAMELA DEAN:
So, for yourself, that was not a limiting…
MARY TURNER LANE:
Well, I'm sure I thought it was at the time. Oh, and that was one of the joys, I suppose, of going away to college. You were free, in some ways, of some of the restrictions of growing up in a small town. And so it's back to what I said: there are positive and negative things about it, but certainly, those are molding and shaping forces, that are very powerful influences on the socialization of children. Some good and some bad. But they do help you know who you are. Early on. They give you direction.
PAMELA DEAN:
They give you a sense of identity.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes.
PAMELA DEAN:
The only one that you could then rebel against.
MARY TURNER LANE:
That's right. And there is some notion that part of the confusion of children today is that they do not know what they stand for, or who they are, or what they believe. In the work that Louis Rotz has done on values, he describes this part of this characteristic of life today as really a very significant one. Even television does not help them come forth with a single sense of identity, because they may see twenty different lifestyles in a day's programming, whereas in their own home and with their own family, and with their own neighborhood, they were very sure of what one lifestyle was. But unless there's a lot of dialogue and discussion, then it is much harder, he says, to arrive at some sense of what I believe, and why I believe it, and why I want to act or behave in a particular way.