Saturday, May 28, 2011

High School Consequential

High school teachers, please don't think I'm grinding on you here.  I think my concern is more with our culture overall.  

You see, the other day I was talking with a man of about 30; he was a graduate of one of our local private high schools, and I asked him if he knew that the school was located right across the street from the house occupied by Spiro T. Agnew back in the day.

"I've never heard of Spiro Agnew," he pointed out.

"What kind of education excludes learning about Nixon/Agnew/Watergate, etc?" I asked myself.  I've long since learned that people don't really appreciate these questions, no matter how valid I find them.

I get into this all the time with Peggy, and her point is that people don't tend to learn about things that occur before their birth.   My rejoinder is that if that were true, no one would know much about the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution and the Monroe Doctrine.

Her rejoinder is that no one really does.

So, teachers, why not?  We've argued about the way schools teach math these days, with less reliance on basic arithmetical principle and more concentration on just how all those digits make up a Facebook status change.  We've been all over English.  I mean that in every sense of the word; I believe that each and every day, our lovely language is dragged down to the town square and beaten to within an inch of its life by television hosts, athletes, and the people who write commercials for television hosts and athletes to read. How a person can sit there and read aloud "A portion of all the donations go to charity in your area" without decrying the lack of subject-verb agreement is beyond me.  How a person can fail to comprehend basic English words is also beyond me.  And how the schools can hand a diploma to someone who cannot write a simple declarative sentence is so far beyond me, it would take extra postage to get me there.  

But history?  Don't we want the children to know about how we got to where we are? "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," said George Santayana, to which I can only add, "How can one remember the past if one's school focused their curriculum on the teaching of tone poems and performance art?"

Just for those unfamiliar, Spiro T. "Spiro" Agnew was a local politician here who took sacks full of money from paving contractors while in several high-ranking offices, was chosen by Richard M. "Dick" Nixon to be his vice-president because "No assassin in his right mind would kill me, because then they'd get Agnew as president" (as Nixon was quoted by felon John Ehrlichman) and then Agnew resigned the office in disgrace when the Feds finally brought him down on tax evasion charges, and later Agnew wrote an autobiography which implied that Alexander Haig told him to "go quietly...or else" when the G-Men showed up with the papers.

That's a story worthy of repeating, so that today's youth will learn not to repeat it.  Or something.



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