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Monday, August 16, 2010

Markie got an F

Should an Islamic mosque be built in the shadow of what’s left of the World Trade Center site, better known as Ground Zero?

Frankly, no.

Throughout the long march of recorded history, religions have divided people and led to war, famine, genocide, ethnic-cleansing, mass death and wholesale destruction.

What’s to like?

Real quick.

A county executive will be appointed by, in all likelihood, 11 unpaid party hacks?


Say no to Haggerty rule.

Speaking of history, my kids and I were rummaging through an old Charles Chips can, a scrapbook of sorts brimming with dated documents and the like.

Eventually, we ran across my son’s collection of disappointing report cards, which quickly got the kids to reminiscing about my occasional blow-ups at parent-teacher conferences. Okay, my frequent blow-ups. There, I said it.

Sorry, but was I supposed to take seriously some pompous ass who was promising to fail a kid with an 84 average because he was, as the pompous ass put it, a smart-ass?


If every teacher failed every 15-year-old smart-ass, most of society would be the proud recipients of a G.E.D.

What, I wasn’t supposed to blow a gasket?

At some point, my son found my 7th grade report card and started crowing about how the kettle was calling the water black? I had 2 Bs, an A, 2 Cs, a D and an F. And he was loving it.

The problem being that I received an F in Music, and the D in History. This from a kid who was a voracious reader of anything to do with either subject, and an audiophile extraordinaire. If there is anything that interests me more than music or history, I have yet to find these amazing gems.

What I asked of my kids was, how effective were these teachers?

I’d walk into music class on most days with a cop of Parade, a copy of Rolling Stone, and with a rock T-shirt on. My jean jacket had a KISS logo emblazoned across the back of it. And I almost always wore a bracelet of guitar picks.

Oh, but Mr. Music Teacher’s overriding quest was to prove to me the error of my youthful ways. Mozart he said. Beethoven he demanded. And to that I said, “Beethoven wouldn’t know how to operate a distortion pedal.”

And with that, I was cast off to Mr. Sallitt’s office for a good paddling all over again. I knew the deal. Wallet and comb on the desk. Bend over. Yawn!

He saw nothing he could tap into?

And then we had the history teacher, who seemed to feel threatened by the fact that I could spout off the final resting places of damn near all of our sunken World War II carriers, how many tons they had displaced and how many aircraft they had carried.

And he kept on reminding us that both the Germans and the Japanese had superior armaments and the like, a point I would not take issue with. My point was, we had more of them and we won. We had the industrial might. Bummer, teach.

He didn’t seem to like that constant haranguing. It seemed as if he wanted us to believe that the U.S., or the U.S. military was lucky or something,

Iowa Class: Wisconsin, New Jersey, Iowa, Missouri!!!

Displaced 46,ooo tons, could cruise above 30 knots, had 16-inch guns and the Japanese surrendered on the decks of one of these late entrants into the war!!!

I know, I know. Wallet and comb.

How could a teacher not manage to tap into that exuberance? And how could a teacher not appreciate the fact that a kid, a gangly kid could know any of that in the pre-Internet days?

Remember, before I entered junior high, I was finally told some part of the long elusive truth whereas my real father was concerned. I was told he was a weapons designer. And I was given a couple of faded IBM newsletters to prove as much.

Senior Design Engineer: Guided Missile Project.

And with that, I was off to the library to read all that I could about weaponry, airborne, land-based and otherwise. And I spent a fortune (for me) at the Book & Record Mart on military hard covers. What, just because I knew what a MIRV was and he didn’t, I was in need of detention? I could tell him what it was like to take in the world’s largest nuclear submarine base with my own eyes, yet he was flippantly dismissive?

Somehow, in his inner place, my enthusiasm for learning very targeted things (pun intended) was annoying.

So what I reminded my kids of was, teachers do not make you smart, nor do their arbitrary gradings of your performance foretell your potential IQ, your future or your eventual earning potential.

Sadly, their egos, their own peculiarities and their own shortcomings too often get in the way of further motivating kids who are interested in something or other. Every kid is interested in something. The question is, will that interest, that hunger to learn deviate from the prepared lesson plan?

I dunno.

Ask the professionals. Ask the professionals who prepare students for the next round of testing, rather than for the rest of their lives. Ask the folks who often mistake enthusiasm for bad behavior. Ask the pros who too often denigrate rather than motivate.

Anyway, I once got an F in Music class.

Figure that one out.


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