That Should Be Enough

Falling through the universe at the speed of life

By David Glenn Cox

There is irony that in the states most concerned about children reading dirty books or being exposed to “Naughty Ideas” in the library. That those are also the states least likely to even have a library in the first place. States on the bottom tier of funding. States where the next President’s name is written in ink on the inside back cover of the history book. States with graffiti on the desk like “Darwin Sucks!”

I remember back at good ole Jefferson Davis High School; we had a library. I specifically remember sticking my head in there once. But you couldn’t just saunter in and pick up a periodical. You needed a pass and a reason.

A reason was easy the pass was not. Now when I say library, think Middle School. The Library was full of APPROVED books on the “APPROVED County Reading List.” You may only submit class work about books on the “APPROVED County Reading List.” If you wish to submit work unrelated to books on the “APPROVED County Reading List” you must first petition the county school board for their written authorization.

I was lucky, I had spent the first two years of High School in a really good school and the last two at good ole Jeff Davis. The literal interpretation of “More Science High.” A football team with its own High School. What you do with yourself, until you’re old enough to join the Army.

Long ago in ancient times like the 1950s, post-war GI Bill college graduates were anxious to show off their new status as the educated intelligentsia. Books were a status symbol for the new affluence. “I’m not just a hick from the Styx you know, I got books damn it!”

 As a boomer child sitting on the floor, it appeared books were always at eye level. I was raised by a family of readers. At 13, my mother left a copy of “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex” on the coffee table in the living room without saying a word. Knowing that leaving such a book with such a wondrous title, I would begin reading it immediately from cover to cover. Postponing all other recreation and dog-earing the pages of the good parts!

In my youth, I was expected to know Salinger and Kerouac and the All-Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Catch 22 and Slaughterhouse Five. On top of all my regular schoolwork.

That’s just my point, most of these libraries are so dull and droll. “My Struggles” by Nancy Reagan. Also published as, “Does Anyone Have Any Chap stick?” Lindbergh Flies the Atlantic! “Is Pat Buchanan a man of Destiny?” Gerald Ford, Giant or just Clumsy? Chances are, that they wouldn’t read the books even if thrown at them. Book burners would need to take up a collection just to import those books into the state, before setting them alight.

I bought a book at a flea market for a dime. It would never be on the approved reading list ever. The book was titled “Five Chimneys” by Olga Levin. Fifty years later and my memory of title and author are undimmed. It was the story of a woman’s three-year struggle trying to stay alive in Auschwitz concentration camp.

It was a horror story beyond Hollywood and not the type of book a fifteen-year-old should be reading. But it was just the kind of book a fifteen-year-old should be reading. It shocked me and jolted me into the horrors of the adult world.  It ignited a curiosity to know why. How could this happen? World War Two led me to Churchill’s “The Second World War” which led me to Gibbon’s “Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.”  That’s a lot of dime.

Any idea I might have had about turning in a paper about the Holocaust. The Second World War or the Roman Empire, would be deemed unacceptable and graded as an incomplete. A paper on Johnny Trumain, The Red Badge of Courage or Tom Sawyer would be fine. A legacy of underfunded schools leaves a legacy of underfunded ideas. “David, David, you are over thinking this thing.”

 I remember our Biology teacher at good ole J.D. Instead of everyone dissecting a frog, we watched, as Mr. Twiddlefart dissected a frog. Then we watched him trying to put it all back inside again to get the frog ready for the next class. That frog had to last all day. Now class, take our your “Operation” game and try to remove the funny bone.”

Our classroom trash cans were left-over civil defense bomb shelter drinking water containers. They had instructions printed on the side from the government on how to use it as a commode. Because you really do need written instructions on the “Right” way and the “Wrong” way to shit in a cardboard water container. In a time of Nuclear attack, details are always important, you need to be specific about such things. Because there’s always that one guy, “Hey guess what everybody? Johnny just pooped in our drinking water…again!”

Today, college is an expensive crap shoot. Gone are the days when you could show your degree at the front door and disappear into the bowels of Corporate America. Finally emerging and meeting the company CEO at your own retirement party, thirty years later. We have the internet now; you don’t need to know anything anymore. Just Google it! What was Belisarius first name? Who are Marlboro cigarettes named after? (Hint: Not a Cowboy)

It’s wonderful to look and to be curious, that’s to be encouraged. It’s when you begin to ask why Montag, that knowledge becomes a threat. It’s a threat to the status quo. A threat to the county school board and a threat to the community at large. Never mind why because we said so, that’s why; “Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb” smart guy? When was the War of 1812, if you know everything?

So, we design public education to dull the senses and learn the dates. So that by the time the students get into high school, they won’t go near any book not on the APPROVED County Reading list. Learning all the important lessons of life from Tom Sawyer and Johnny Trumain. Too much education is a dangerous thing. It’s expensive, and only leads to trouble. That should be enough.

“You will find that you cannot do without politicians. They are a necessary evil in this day and time. You may not like getting money from one source and spending it for another. But the thing for the school people to do is that if the politicians are going to steal, make them steal for the schools.” – Huey Long

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