Class Dismissed

By Cynthia Dagnal-Myron — December 01, 1989 5 min read

But There’s No Bubble Gum

Forget Willie May, Mickey Mantle, and Bo Jackson. now you can get “baseball cards” of Ted Kennedy, Bob Dole, and all your other favorite member of Congress, compliments of the National Education Association.

The NEA’s government-relations department has produced the first-ever set of Congressional cards. The union is giving each member of Congress 500 copies of his or her own card and will keep 500 full sets to pass out as prizes and awards. Collectors are already excited about the possibilities of assembling an all-sex-scandal team, an all-influence-peddling team, and an all-dodge-the-tough-issues team.

A Novel Physics Class

Sixteen-year-old Jennifer Carnell found physics class altogether too boring. So while other students at her school in England were learning about quantum mechanics, she began writing a novel. Despite her teachers’ warnings that this was not the way to get ahead in life, she pushed on with her spoof of an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery.

And where did it get her? Last year, her book, Murder, Mystery and Mayhem, was published to approving reviews in England, and it has just been published in this country by Harper & Row.

Just Following The Teacher’s Orders

Sometimes things just don’t work out--even when you try your hardest.

Take the case of 6-year-old Walker Hinkle-Burnett. He made it through his first day of kindergarten at Minneapolis’s Anderson Open School; he even rode the school bus there by himself. Then, as he was ready to head for home, a teacher directed the departing students: “Bus riders go to this side, all the walkers come over here.’' Walker, doing what he was told, missed his bus.

Say What?

Children are not bossy; they are “demonstrating leadership charisma.’'

State officials say they were not really firing teachers, merely going through “a reallocation exercise.’'

Students don’t read; they “interact with print.’'

Those were some of the contenders in this year’s doublespeak contest, sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English. And those entries didn’t even win.

First prize in the annual contest went to Exxon for redefining what constitutes “clean’’ in relation to oilcovered Alaska beaches. The Bush Presidential campaign came in second for apparently publicly disavowing, while privately embracing, the now famous Willie Horton ads. And Reagan Administration Interior Secretary James Watt captured third prize with his statements about his involvement in the Department of Housing and Urban Development scandal. Asked if he had engaged in influence peddling when he received a $300,000 consulting fee for making a few phone calls and meeting briefly with former HUD chief Samuel Pierce, Watt responded: “If I were a Democrat, I would say, ‘James Watt engaged in influence peddling.’ But as an objective Republican, I would say, ‘There’s a skilled, talented man who used his credibility for accomplishing an objective.’'

The Point Of Teaching

Think teachers are always getting stuck? You may be right.

Planet Greetings of Fresh Meadows, N.Y., is marketing a collection of voodoo dolls that includes those perennial favorites: a mother-in-law, ex-husband, and ex-wife. And yes, they have included a teacher in their limited line of occupational voodoos. The only others in that line are a lawyer, salesman, and the generic boss.

Teacher is about six inches tall and resembles the stereotypical schoolmarm, with gray hair, wire glasses, and a stern expression on her face. She comes complete with three “fast-acting’’ pins and the following directions: “Use one pin in desired area for irritating itch, two pins for mild ache, three pins for major pain. For best results, chant, ‘DIS MAK MEEF EEL SOG UDE,’ while using pins.’' The dolls retail for about $6 at card and gift shops.

Ray Presti, one of the owners of Planet Greetings, is an ex-teacher himself. “It’s just a silly little gag gift,’' he says.

Ax the Lorax?

Down with Dr. Seuss? Down with the Lorax? Some parents in the small California town of Laytonville say Dr. Seuss’s beloved tale of a fuzzy woodland creature who wages a futile crusade against ax-wielding “Oncelers’’ is not appropriate reading for local 2nd graders.

The evil Oncelers in Seuss’s book, The Lorax, level Truffla trees into near-extinction to produce multipurpose garments called Thneeds. The book ends with the last remaining Onceler admonishing the reader to nurture the sole surviving Truffla seed and to “protect it from axes that hack.’'

The problem, according to parent Judith Bailey, is that logging is the livelihood of most town residents, and the book paints a negative image of the timber industry.

When Bailey’s son commented, “If you cut a tree, you kill an animal,’' she asked district officials to remove the book from the 2nd grade reading list. A special committee voted 6 to 1 to keep the book on the required list; the school board unanimously approved that decision.

Meanwhile, the controversy has breathed new life into the book’s sales. The book has been out of stock in local stores-- forcing residents to drive 100 miles or more to buy copies of The Lorax.

Recess Must Be Boring!

Unlike most students, 7-yearold Brandon Schlund never has to compete for his teacher’s attention or race to be the first to the playground slide. Brandon is the lone student at the Pines School on Bois Blanc Island, Mich.

“It can’t get any better than one-on-one instruction,’' says Lani White, the school’s teacher, principal, and receptionist-- all rolled into one.

The school has a $49,000 annual budget to ensure that Brandon gets a proper education. Even after paying for White’s $27,000 salary, a custodian’s salary, and the up- keep on the schoolhouse, enough is left over for a computer, videocassette recorder, television, and film projector.

Neither student nor teacher seems to mind the unusual arrangement at all. In fact, White says, “Things are working out very well.’'

But Brandon won’t be alone for long. The school’s enrollment will double next fall when White’s 4-year-old child begins kindergarten.

The Luck Of The Drop

One recent Saturday, a little after noon, farmer Orville “Buddy’’ Chittenden led his cow Rosie on to the football field at Guilford (Conn.) High School. The 6-year-old, white-faced Holstein cow paused, lowered her head, and “did her business’’ to the oohs and aahs of the townspeople in the stands.

It was Rosie’s unique contribution to an unusual fund raiser that netted $20,000 for lights for the school’s athletic field.

The field had been divided into a checkerboard of one-square-yard patches. Each patch was “sold’’ for $10 to a sponsor. With a well-placed plop, Rosie selected the lucky plot holder: 7-yearold Erin Meaney.

Erin won $5,000, plus Rosie’s steaming deposit in a plastic bag. Bill Dion, president of the Touchdown Club, which sponsored the first Great Guilford Cow Maneuver, said the idea was inspired by a similar event in Sheldon, Conn. The proceeds from the “pie making’’ contest, along with $30,000 in donations, will go toward the $70,000 cost of the lights.

A version of this article appeared in the December 01, 1989 edition of Teacher as Class Dismissed