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BRIDGES: New school year brings both new, old challenges
Chris Bridges
Chris Bridges

Many students in the area have already returned to the classroom for the start of a new school year.

One thing that is a certainty is that students today face as much stress as ever. Young people have always had peer pressure, as well as pressure from adults, to do things both wise and unwise. That continues to be true in 2021 just as it was in 1989 when I graduated high school. It’s a generational thing and it will always continue.

Bullying remains a big concern today. This is an issue which has always gone on. It goes beyond “kids will be kids.” There is no justification for bullying. Some school districts handle and control it better than others. Others like to keep it all hush-hush and pretend it is not an issue.

When I was a student, I was one of the fortunate ones. I only had to deal with a few isolated cases of bullying. When I was in middle school, a high school senior decided he would zero in on me. I let it slide the first couple of times but then it got old.

To me the solution to this problem was simple: I told my father about it. While I did not witness the conversation, I do know that after my father had a heart-to-heart talk (it was a one-sided conversation my father later told me) with the one who was doing the bullying that it never happened again.

School systems today would frown on a parent handling a situation in this manner. In all likelihood the law would be called to prevent the parent from doing so.

Part of the problems with our young people today is the lack of a strong family foundation. There are many reasons for it but a young student has much less of a chance in this crazy world without that family support.

It is so beneficial to have a supportive father and mother. In some cases, the child is wrong and good parents understand that. In other times the bureaucracy of a school system (whether large or small) can be infuriating. 

Who knows what might have transpired from my situation without my father to step in and put an immediate stop to it.

Social skills for today’s student seem way less than they were in my generation. Part of it is always looking at a phone. Today’s young person literally has the world at their fingertips so what is actually going on around them seems of little interest.

I bet if you asked 100 random high school students when was the last time that they ever read an actual newspaper (one you turn the pages for) then 99 would say never. The number might even be 100.

On the other hand, all 100 would have a Facebook page, Twitter account and a long list of contacts they text on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Many spend hours a day watching YouTube videos. Sure some are educational but others are well, you know.

Texting has also led to less socialization. You don’t have to actually talk to someone. You can just send them a text and then look at their reply.

Of course, having a cell phone is not all bad. I like the fact I have one when I travel. Phones today can help you locate places or certainly call for help if it is needed. For those reasons alone it is probably essential for young people to have them. 

All students should be involved in at least one activity at school beyond sitting in a desk in a classroom. Even smaller schools today offer a wide variety of activities. Whether a student participates in a wide selection of sports, drama, literary, band or even clubs such as 4-H, there really is something for everything. Being involved in something, anything, is such a vital part of the education process.

It’s never easy being a teenager or pre-teen. That’s something that will probably never change. I don’t have kids but I have always felt I would be the type of parent who would wrap their’s in bubble wrap and never let them leave the house. I would worry about them constantly.

So, it’s not easy for parents either. Most of the people I went to high school with now have grown children themselves. The clock keeps turning with each passing school year.

Hopefully students can have a good 2021-22 school year without harm or fear or any cause for concern. That’s probably wishful thinking but it’s something I do think about with the start of each new school year.

We haven’t even touched on the ongoing COVID-19 situation. In recent conservations with family and co-workers, it appears the pandemic is about to crank up again. Even those who are vaccinated probably will have to begin wearing a mask again soon.

Students today continue to face pressures as they did in the past. No doubt they always will.

Chris Bridges is a former sports editor for The News. Reach him at