Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Liberal Education-Not A Treatise but a Memoir

I remember when I told my mom and dad that I wanted to attend the University of Texas at Austin. I had been offered a full scholarship at a small Lutheran college and they couldn't understand why I would want to choose such a huge university when the other school would have been free. Now I understand their thinking, free versus not free. Well, at that point in 1970 tuition was $500 a semester plus room and board. The first thing, though, that my dad said was, "you do realize that that school is very liberal." Liberal, schmiberal. What did I care. I was going to THE CITY! No, I said. It's UT I want.  I wanted to get AWAY from small town life. If you wanted Italian food, you ate it out of a can (Chef Boyardee and I were good friends). If you wanted Chinese, that's right, out of a can. I didn't want to drive an hour and a half to go shopping. I had taken the SAT and ACT and had done Ok but nothing to write home about. As you know, one criteria of the acceptance process is what percentile you are in your class. You needed to be in the top 10%. Well, golly, I was 3rd in my class, out of thirty! When I told my parents that I had been accepted, they were ecstatic but leery. Remember those liberals? My first semester was in Sept. of 1970. We were in the throes of the Vietnam war. Riots on campuses, riot police. And here I am. The small town girl who doesn't no shit from shinola. Yes, I had, maybe, if my memory is correct, inhaled, but I don't remember (we actually had a "paraphernalia" shop within walking distance from our apartment) . What I do remember is my first day of classes. I make my way to an English class of some kind, seat myself, and before you know it, a Black Panther comes screaming into the room. Oh gentle youthful readers. I am not talking about the feline black panther. Read more...
I am talking about the "black" movement of the 60's and 70's. Real radical stuff. Hatred of the white man etc. This guy jumps up on the associate professor's desk and starts mother f*ckin this and mother f*ckin that. Someone in the class calls security. It turns out the associate professor had hired this guy to shock us into his reality. I later heard he did not achieve tenure (In my esteemed opinion, a correct decision). Skip forward a few years.   I'm now a senior, and I'm in my final English class. It's American lit from the beginning of the US to the 1860's. I had waited to take this class because I knew I would hate it. I go to the class room and the place is packed. I queried of another student why the place was so full. He laughed and said, "you really don't no?" Nope, sorry, must be out of the loop. Turns out this associate professor doesn't give grades. Yee Hiii! I've hit the jackpot! So many people signed up for this class they had to move it to a big auditorium underneath Daryl Royal Stadium (although at that time it was called Texas Memorial Stadium. Coach Royal was still coaching). This was a typical class: the AP would come in, ask everybody how their day had been, then he would bring in a street poet or his wife and his 10 year old would play the flute and violin. Then he'd say, for tomorrow, read these essays by so and so. Anybody want to discuss today's reading assignment? No? Then here's homeless Jerry to sing for you. If you have any donations, bring them up after the performance. When it was time to give out grades, he'd send around a card with every ones name on it. He'd ask us to give ourselves the grade we thought we deserved. At first I thought that if we gave ourselves an A, he might, instead, give us an F. What the heck. A it was and A I got. I later heard that this guy also didn't get tenure and was teaching at a community college. I got an A in his class and later graduated with a 3.8. OK, since I had this guy, if factored in, let's say a 3.3. OK? My father was worried that the school was too liberal? He should have. Here is full disclosure. Yes, me, miss conservative, voted for both Jimmy Carter and Michael Dukakis. I'm sooooo ashamed..... I do remember this old adage though, "If you're young and you're conservative, you have no heart. If you're old and you're liberal, you have no brain." Enough said.

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