David Bruce: The Funniest People in Neighborhoods — Education

Education

• Danny, the computer scientist brother of young people’s author William Sleator, had a hard time learning to read when he was a young child. One day, he went with his father to his father’s lab. Left alone for a short time, he studied a fire alarm on the wall and deciphered the word PULL. Having deciphered the word, he then followed the instructions and pulled, setting off the fire alarm. His father was not upset; instead, he was happy that Danny was finally showing signs that he was not illiterate.

• The grandmother of young adult author Chris Crutcher used to tell him a story about when his father was a boy. In the sixth grade, he came home and told her, “A lot of the other kids in my class think I’m arrogant.” She told him that he could change the other kids’ opinion of him by doing such things as not answering every question the teacher asked and letting the other kids have a chance to answer a few questions. Chris’ father thought for a moment, then said, “Naw, I’d rather be arrogant.”

• The pupils of a teacher wished to drive evil from the world, so they asked him how to do that. The teacher took his pupils to a dark basement and told them that they would drive the darkness from the basement. First, the teacher told his pupils to use sticks to beat the darkness out of the basement, but that didn’t work. Next, the teacher told his pupils to shout at and curse the darkness to drive it out of the basement, but that didn’t work. Finally, the teacher told his pupils to light a candle.

• Many students are afraid of being made uncomfortable in the classroom because of exposure to beliefs that are different from their own. Writer Anna Quindlen once asked Elizabeth Castelli, a professor of religion at Barnard College, if she did anything to keep her students from feeling uncomfortable in the classroom. She replied, “It is not my job to make people comfortable. It is [my job] to educate them.” Ms. Quindlen wrote that when she heard this, “I nearly stood up and cheered.”

• Following the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center, many Americans wanted revenge. A week after the attack, Dean Dorothy Denburg of Barnard College saw many people wearing Barnard College T-shirts on Fifth Avenue in New York passing out leaflets that called for tolerance toward people of all religions and all backgrounds. This took courage as many, many people, including high-ranking American politicians, wanted war, even against a country that had nothing to do with 9-11.

• Not everyone supports giving honorary degrees to celebrities, including royal celebrities. In 1986, Monash University gave Prince Philip an honorary science degree. To protest, the Monash Association of Students gave their own honorary degree — to a 21-month-old Chihuahua. Some people thought the Chihuahua deserved the honorary degree as much as the prince did. Other people disagree, saying that the Chihuahua deserved the honorary degree more than the prince did.

• At times, students become excited by learning. During Spring Quarter of 1970, Ohio University professor Robert DeMott offered a course titled “Writers of the Beat Movement.” The course drew so many students that there was standing room only, with many students spilling out of the classroom and into the hallway. Later in 1970, he taught an Honors course on beat poet Gary Snyder — the class met in a teepee on property owned by an Ohio University art professor.

• Many books for young people have been censored or challenged, although defenders of free speech have often stood up to the would-be censors. For example, a librarian in the New York City school system threatened to quit if Paul Zindel’s novel The Pigman were placed in the library. Her supervisors told her to quit — if students wanted to read The Pigman, they could.

• Actor Will Smith’s father was strongly against illegal drugs. When Will was a teenager, his father drove him around the poorer sections of Philadelphia, showing him bums with nowhere to sleep but doorways. He told Will, “This is what people look like when they do drugs.” Will says, “I never tried drugs because I felt he would kill me. Literally.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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