The hearings for and against Betsy DeVos, soon and inevitably to be Secretary of Education, bring to mind my own special education inside the public school system. Betsy has never worked a day in public education, has never allowed any of her kids to attend public school, and yet is supremely confident that she knows how to teach our vast unwashed masses. To me DeVos appears no more qualified to head even a county board of Ed than the ghost of Ralph the Diving Pig (Ralph starred for years at Aquarena Springs, San Marcos, Texas, and yes, he dove off the high board). But perhaps Betsy deserves some slack. Perhaps.
The science, or more likely art, of education is always in flux. We learn as we go and the kids are the lab rats.
Yes, everyone means well, but not all ideas end well. To wit:
In the early 60’s Caddo Parish schools began a program of enhanced teaching for their most gifted students. How were these students selected? National test scores played a part, but so did teacher and principal evaluations. How did they choose me? God only knows. Anna was, is, and always will be naturally smarter. Cynthia was an equal, and she worked harder. Nancy was wiser, even at ten. Male advantage, I suppose: they were going to be homemakers and raise children. I might become a leader of men!
What a crime.
Rapid Learners (that’s what they called us lab rats) took field trips once or twice a month. I remember the newspaper tour (typesetting was automated), the power plant visit (it was hot near the boilers), and the big library trip (books out the wazoo). We went twenty other places but they didn’t register. ..
But my days as an RL were time well spent. My Mooringsport group included Mike Ryan who earned three letters as a defensive back at LSU, and Tommy Luce who like me amounted to little but unlike me, had an impact on the world. Both were strong influences: without saying so they told me “It’s okay to be a nerd. In our own way we nerds be cool.”
Tommy Luce changed the world just a smidge. On Sunday, January 15, 1967, Mooringsport’s long unused football field featured a game organized by Luce between our town’s blacks and whites. Those guys were so fast, so bony, so tough. Although beefier and slower, our Whitey hearts pumped Anglo-Saxon blood and war lust. We played without helmets or pads. The game was nothing less than war.
I never learned most of their names. But they were good guys. Play tackle without pads and you will come to know these things. Perhaps that is the appeal of rugby. Bleed together, and then drink together.
Who won? I think we all did. As for the score, it ended 12 – 12 without a clock, by mutual agreement. I didn’t do much, spent the day blocking. But very near the end of the game, on 4th down I met Tyrone, their biggest back, in the hole and put a shoulder into his belly and drove though him with my legs. It was a goal line stand completed by your writing boy!
We shook hands all around. We were all sore, but nobody was missing teeth. Combatants became acquaintances. Then we all went home to watch something else that had never happened before: they called it The Super Bowl.