From: James
Date:Wed, 24 Mar 2004 12:11:52 -0800 (PST)
Subject:better late...
Yo, G!

Sometimes it takes a while for us to appreciate what
our teachers have done for us, especially because we
don't always understand what that something is. I've
always had this sneaking suspicion that you were
responsible for my 800 on the SAT verbal (certainly
the only thing Romeo ever taught me is how to start
dealing with people in positions of power that I
didn't get along with or necessarily like). I've
always known that you were the first and probably only
teacher that really taught me how to think.

But only recently have I realized that you had us
tapped into important social dialogue at an age when
most of the rest of the kids in this country define
the word social as hooking up and getting laid.

I started writing a short story last year about a
relationship I had in college. It's somewhere over 17
pages now (single-spaced), though I haven't touched it
in a while. While I was writing, I got inspired to go
back and look at some of my older writing from college
and high school, and I came across an essay from the
World History Online class. I couldn't believe I was
writing like that in _high school_.

I've been doing a lot of reading lately, too, and I
keep coming across references to books that we read in
your classes. I've seen Zinn's People's History in a
couple of places, even in pop culture (Good Will
Hunting). I was reading Fast Food Nation and found a
reference to Barber's Jihad vs. McWorld. I had just
bought another copy of it to reread, and it was
sitting right there in the seat pocket in front of me
on the plane! I had such a sense of pride that we had
been discussing something that has even more relevance
today than it did 8 years ago (can you believe it's
been 8 years?).

I remember being frustrated and a little mocking of
the lack of structure in all of your classes. It
didn't help being friends with Lehman! But now I
realize that the energy and substance that you brought
to the class was the important part. Structured crap
is still crap. That part that is sad for me is
realizing that the structure is what keeps teachers
from burning out - the same rigidness that discourages
new and creative thought provides support for a
teacher that runs out of creative energy.

It may be a self-fulfilling prophecy to predict that
your kind of energy might not be sustainable. I may be
giving name to a frustration that you have only felt
intangibly. But I'm hoping that I can help you
recognize what your energy has helped create. I know
I'm not the only one that realizes how much you've
given our class. I can speak for 'the Juniors' on that
account as well. Hopefully this knowledge can keep you
going a little longer, keep the energy alive.

I can't believe how long I held onto the ideal that
education is a public good. That's the problem with so
many liberal ideals - they _feel_ right, so it's hard
think about them logically. Yet the perfect
counter-argument is my own damn life!

I've seen what's arguably the best that public
education has to offer in Oakwood High School. And
even that doesn't compare to the education I got at
MVS. Yet I still believed that education should be a
basic commodity provided by the government!
Ridiculous! How can someone be expected to learn in an
environment where teachers have no incentive to
provide the best product possible? Why should they
care if they do a bad job, when they are guaranteed an
endless supply of students?

I'm glad I had the opportunity to afford the
alternative. I think it's unfortunate that the
disenfranchised continue to be trapped by a system
which doesn't give them the tools to escape. I wish I
had an answer to the question of how those tools can
be provided, but I think it's fair to say at this
point that the government has failed in that

You are the example of what works. If you had to teach
at public school, you'd probably get smacked down in a
week. If the parents didn't get you, it wouldn't be
long before even you would get infected or at least
affected by the idea that it's cool to be dumb in this
country. Frankly, it's that attitude that makes me
think the disenfranchised deserve what they get. If
knowledge was rewarded, people would find a way to get
access to it, no matter what their financial
resources. Half-assed public education doesn't solve
the problem, and might even make it worse.

I guess I'd better get back to work. But my thanks
have been long overdue!