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Friday, May 12, 2006

.....Hey 19 that's Retha Franklin



.......Hey Nineteen That's 'Retha Franklin She don't remember The Queen of Soul.
Steely Dan


Teaching High School...having a High School student and formerly being a High Schooler, albeit close to forty years ago, has provided for me a crows nest view of High School Seniors this week. With it being the last official week of their High School career certain absolute essentials dominate their lives. ..... "Got to get their cap and gown and have to have everyone sign the year book and got to get the last test in so I can graduate with the grades I want, got to make sure I know who is throwing the grad party and where..moaning and groaning about the hard, tough or mean teachers who might make the 'last days' of High School such a drag, .....it isn't fair", they say.

All of the above seem so excruciatingly important. Nothing in any way could surpass the desire to write in someone's yearbook. When I told one of my senior classes that is was not but a few years ago that my daughter discovered my high school yearbooks in the bottom of a very ancient box with an espresso machine I believe I bought at the very first Starbucks in the Pike Place Market in the 70's of which yearbook and exspresso machine I had not set my eyes on in over twenty years, they were a bit befuddled. I said to them, " you might look at this for a few months, later before your High School Reunion but for the most part it is left for a relic upon your book shelf or a part of the "stuff" box you drag from apartment to apartment until you decide either to store it in the antique section or in fact you misplace the thing entirely".

What was entirely off the wall strange was that when I named the people who I had been in contact from my High School in all these almost forty years could be counted on my right hand that did amaze and stupefy. My #2 step son and his High School friends are closer today than when they were in High School. It would be entirely possible for him to put together a cocktail party of 25 to 35 of such pals who live near each other, play golf weekly, do business with each other, take vacations together and whose children now are the best of friends as well. Not true for me. The people of closeness for me out of the academic world come from College not High School. I live thousands of miles from my high school and would not move back.
I told them of a friend of mine who passed on his College Graduation to take a seat in the arena next door to watch Mick Jagger cavort with Stevie Wonder onstage. That at least moved into the realm of cool but still left lines of doubt about someone who might forgo the pleasure of cap and gown. For most of them it did not compute.

When I mentioned to them I can only remember the really hard ass teachers that I had, they were the only good ones as well, they could not believe me. Sorry, it may be the lack of an old mans memory but I am not the only 50 year old to mention that only the tough ones stay in one's head.

This lead to me to one of my crucial rules of life; don't really have a number for these crucial rules of life but if I did my children would be able to shout out a number rather than be forced to hear them over and over again as they have all of their life. One is that history is lost from generation to generation and has to be relearned in times of stress or indulgence. It takes History to bring perspective. It takes seeing the big picture to make things work. One reason the founding fathers put a simple age requirement on President. They didn't do for anyone else. There are others, but I will leave that to another post.

Steely Dan's Donald Fagen and Walter Becker seem to know and sing about such things.

Hey Nineteen
That's 'Retha Franklin
She don't remember
The Queen of Soul
It's hard times befallen
The sole survivors
She thinks I'm crazy
But I'm just growing old

Hey Nineteen
No we got nothing in common
No we can't talk at all
Please take me along
When you slide on down

The Cuervo Gold
The fine Colombian
Make tonight a wonderful thing

It is apparent when I ask one of my classes what they believe everyday life in Rome in the midst of the Roman Empire might be like. These Romans lived in marble and granite with steam heated floors, efficient water and sewage systems, a bath system to keep all but the poorest clean and comfy. Some of the middle class abodes in the Roman cities would fit right in to one of our gated communities close by. It is simple discoveries that open one's heart and mind.

I'll never forget the day my oldest step-son Tom came to ask me an important question, "did you know that Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings". One of those small discoveries that change everything. BTW yes, I did know that one. There have been other questions since, Tom is now something of a music expert, that I could not answer. It remains a question of perspective. Perspective.........the larger view. Or perhaps the insiders detailed view, both work.

Regardless, half of the instructional battle with modern 14-18 year olds is to give some level of perspective that might allow a peak above the trees to see that there is a forest. Today one of my youngest son's friends was offered a full scholarship to Harvard. Harvard estimates that to attend for one year it should cost $48850.00 in 2006 not counting health cost of $1200.00 or so to keep a student on a health plan....do the math. Times four....$194500.00 add some inflation ....and that ticket is an E ticket worth just under $225,000 dollars. I asked this handsome, athletic, football player just how many hours he believed he had studied in High School. He figured roughly under 1450 real hours he will invest over the course of four years in academic endeavors of improvement. That is about $154.00 per hour. Nice investment.....by the way this kid is a tough defensive back on our football team who can deliver the hard punishing lick to an opponent. He is also black. I asked him how he had produced such excellence on the field and in class. He said, "I knew I had a chance I just had to remember that chance everyday". I admire this kind of big picture kid. I am just thrilled for him and his future. Big picture....big future!

I don't believe I had this big picture view as a youngster. I looked for pleasure and fulfillment in things that were good........some excellent but still were trees and not the forest. I believe that the forest begins to form and many adults get grumpier, bitter and some even start to blame the trees for their situation. Or worse yet they start to recarve the forest into something they believe they can explain their own life with. Sometimes.....the Cuervo takes over. Each of us does have our own plan.

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