It was the end of the first grading period, 5th grade, 1971. Our report cards were neatly piled on Miss Cook’s desk, waiting to be distributed. It was almost time for the bell to ring to dismiss us for the day, and we were getting antsy, squirming in our seats, when the school principal walked into our classroom, wooden paddle in hand.
The principal always travelled the halls carrying his trusty “board of education” and this day was no exception. He sauntered in, sidled up to Miss Cook’s desk, and began rifling through the stack of report cards. Singling out two male students, he began to read their grades out loud to the class. And their grades were not good.
As if that wasn’t humiliating enough, he then called both of them up to the front and had them stand next to him, facing the rest of us. He began to verbally berate them both. At one point, paddle in hand, he said “What’s the MATTER with you two?” and flicked the paddle toward the student standing closest to him. He was a stocky boy. The paddle struck him squarely in the stomach. The boy flinched, then straightened back up, continuing to face the class, his lower lip quivering as he tried not to cry. The principal continued: “Don’t you want to grow up to be President of the United States?” Then he began to wax poetic about the greatness of our commanders-in-chief, and listing them in reverse order starting with Nixon (remember, this is pre-Watergate): Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Truman, Roosevelt…
Up went my little hand. “Mr. T, didn’t you skip President Eisenhower?”
“Now you listen here, little lady…..”
Miss Cook tapped him gently on the arm.
“Mr. T, I believe she’s correct on that.”
Finally, we were saved, literally, by the bell.
I honestly can’t remember what time of day the principal came into our classroom. Something, besides me, interrupted him and ceased his tirade, and his totally uncalled for reading of our grades to the class. This man was a first-class, 100% dyed in the wool nut job. Totally. He was scary. I knew he was a little weird, but I’m not sure I fully understood the situation. I thought that, if he was going to recite the presidents to us, he should do it right.
I expect no less from our authorities now. From those who want me to put my trust in them to lead our country into the future. Tell me the truth. I might already know that what they’re saying is true, or not. And if I don’t, I have this wonderful tool called the Internet to help me discern.
That tool, plus the mind God gave me.