Thumbing through a high school yearbook the other night, I was struck by how many attractive kids there were in my graduating class. Many of them weren't particularly well known, and certainly weren't the acclaimed beautiful people of the school; just a lot of pretty young women and handsome young men who never plugged into whatever social mechanism it is that turns some kids into the beauties and hunks of the school. Who knows why?
With some of those kids I vaguely remembered talking to them once or twice... I think a lot of people put out feelers to see if I'd be their friend, and I was too clueless and socially inept to even realize it was happening. I had important Dragonlance novels to read, vital Roger Dean coffee table books to study... who had time for new friends?
Moreover I think I was too cliquish. I really believed that if you weren't a card-carrying member of the Dungeons and Dragons table in the lunchroom, the prayer group that met Friday mornings, or the forensics team, then relations between us could never, and maybe should never, flourish. What was I thinking?
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Speaking of what people were thinking in school, I had a teacher named Mr. Smith who taught Freshman world history. He looked rather like Dan Quayle. He took an interest in me and I in him. I don't remember much about these classes, but they satisfied my curiosity about other lands and my desire to, well, exercise my brain a bit. I think he stayed pretty close to the textbook, but had a speaking style I found engaging. I remember a couple of things about his class, though, that struck me oddly at the time and irk me now.
Uno: He skipped the chapter in our textbook about African history. He explained this by saying that Africa hasn't contributed enough to the world to be worth studying. !!! Africa contributed THE HUMAN RACE to the world. Maybe it hasn't contributed much stuff that Honkies named Smith can appreciate, but that's all the more reason to learn about Africa. Now I wanna find Mr. Smith and graft an African ceremonial mask to his face.
Dos: There were a couple paragraphs in our textbook about Buddhism. Mr. Smith devoted a day's class to "debunking" Buddhism by showing how, on the basis of the potted explanation of Buddhism our book offered, Buddhism was bogus. Weelll... any religion can be made to look silly if you come to it from the outside and take a reductionist approach. Smith and I were both outspoken Christians, and he loaned me a tract that I thought was pretty cool at the time. It might have been a genuinely intellectually stimulating class if a whimsical Buddhist could have offered a counterpoint by taking that tract to task.
This ties in to a recurring concern for me lately; what lessons did I actually learn, and from whom? These are the crap lessons I remember Smith teaching; what else did I pick up from him? I have a lot of bad ideas in my head, and lately I find myself wondering: how much of this did I learn as a youngster, and how did I learn it? How much of it was me misunderstanding what people tried to pass no to me, as opposed to people just misteaching me? I recall a church camp where they got all the boys in an auditorium so a woman could tell us all about what women want from men. I remember paying close attention but I don't remember what she told us. There's a lot of stuff like that in my past. How much of what's right and wrong about me comes from these lessons that I've conciously forgotten? Who taught me what?
I had at least one wonderful teacher whom I should write about later...