Liberty Allowed America To Become Great

Liberty Allowed America To Become Great

By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist

(Reprinted from August 19, 2009 Current Newspaper of Atlantic County)

“I never let my schooling interfere with my education”. Mark Twain,
American author, speaker, and humorist, 1835-1910.


I went to Richmond Avenue school in the 1950’s. Back then, most elementary schools were named for the streets they were on – not politicians or school administrators.

Richmond Avenue looked just like every other public school back then – even the New York City school my grandmother went to when she got off the boat in 1905. Taxpayers could once afford new schools because they were all built the same. They all had the same “H” or “U” shaped floor plans with big windows so every classroom had plenty of light and fresh air.

There were 25 to 30 kids in all my classes from 1954 through 1961. I bet we learned a lot more than kids in much smaller classes today.

Our one teacher was always in full control. Any kid who disrupted a class was sent to the principal, where one phone call home usually fixed the problem.

Any knucklehead who didn’t wise up was expelled and allowed to continue his or her education washing dishes, sweeping floors, etc. in what the late Henry Peterson of Atlantic City called “Concrete College” or “The School of Hard Knocks”.

Schools rarely expel such knuckleheads today because it is far too expensive. A “Child Study Team” must determine the “learning disabilities” that are causing the bad behavior. Then taxpayers must fund enormously expensive “Individual Instruction Plans”(IEP’s) – often with personal tutors and instruction at home. Teachers today are often told to keep the knucklehead in class, and do the best they can.

There were only 13 full time employees to teach about 240 of us at Richmond Avenue. Nine were full time teachers, one for each of the six grades, kindergarten, an 5th /6th grade class for kids from nearby Chelsea Heights, and one “special needs” class for all grades. There was one principal, a secretary, a nurse, and a janitor (who also shoveled coal and removed ashes). We didn’t have a school library – we used the same library branch that served the adult community. We shared our art, gym, and music teachers with other schools, but they were with us enough to inspire many artists and musicians – like my brother Michael.

A semi-retired cop directed traffic at only one major intersection before and after school. A “Safety Patrol” of 5th and 6th grade volunteers covered the other streets.

Richmond Avenue School had no cafeteria. Most of us went home for lunch since most moms did not have to work. The others brought their own lunches. If parents were “too poor” to put a carrot, apple, and two slices of bread with bologna, egg salad, or peanut butter and jelly in a lunchbox every day, there was charity or a look for more serious problems.

When I was at Richmond Avenue School, one working parent could usually comfortably support a family. At times when money was tight (illness, new house, car, vacation, etc.) we moved into our attics or basements, and rented out the rest of the house for the summer. Or Mom worked part-time for a while.

Around 1959, My Weekly Reader, (a national newspaper for elementary students) reported that soon Dad would also be working part-time. New inventions were so productive, that by 1989, the average American breadwinner would only work two or three days a week to support the family. Our biggest problem as adults would be figuring out what to do with all of our leisure time!

What happened? I blame government and health care messed up by government. In the 1950’s, we didn’t have property tax freezes, rebates, or exemptions, because taxes were low for everyone. And we had no state sales tax, income tax, or riparian rip-offs. Business taxes were low, and real estate transfer taxes just paid to record the documents.

We paid our doctors and dentists directly – insurance was only for “major medical.” We could afford their fees because their incomes and lifestyles were close to everyone else’s and they didn’t have to pay all those secretaries and clerks to chase insurance approvals and reimbursements.

Both parents now work so much for government and “insured” health care today that they have no time to be parents. Government “fixes” this problem with costly new programs for schools to acts as parents. Parents pay for this with more time at work, and even less time with their kids. Then government has more problems to “fix”!
For more information, visit, contact Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman at, 609-927-7333, or on 92.1 FM every Saturday from 8AM to 9AM. Breakfast discussion groups are held Saturdays after the show from 9:30 to 10:30 AM at two locations: Athena Diner, New Road, Northfield, and Pegasus Diner, Routes 40 & 47, Malaga.

  • Seth Grossman

    Seth Grossman is executive director of Liberty And Prosperity, which he co-founded in 2003. It promotes American liberty and limited constitutional government through weekly radio and in-person discussions, its website, email newsletters and various events. Seth Grossman is also a general practice lawyer.

    View all posts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top