This past November, Reform Party nominee Jesse Ventura, 47, beat out two seasoned, major-party candidates to become the governor of Minnesota. Jessica L. Sandham recently sat down with the one-time mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, and former professional wrestler to discuss his selection of teacher Mae Schunk for lieutenant governor and his education plans.
Q. Why did you select a teacher as a running mate?
A. Because to me, the entire campaign is a tactical thing. It’s like waging a war. It’s a chess game. What you want to do is solidify your weaknesses. In my case, early on we found out that I was running 4-to-1, men over women. So that told me that I needed to get a woman on board. . . .
Second of all, as mayor I dealt with taxes, I dealt with crime. I dealt with all of the mayoral things. I didn’t deal with education. So that told me I needed someone who knew education, and I needed a woman to fill that gender gap. And I also felt, in all honesty, that I carry a very strong testosterone level, and people get that from me when they meet me and talk to me. Mae comes off of me as the opposite.
Q. How will reducing class size affect educational quality?
A. Well, it’s like anything, how many [students] can you control? How much personal attention can you have? The bigger the class, the less. And [class-size reduction] can be done. We have to be careful, though; you have to do it without building on the capital. You don’t want to have to build all new classrooms. You can achieve 17-to-1 just by putting two teachers in one class. You can still have a class of 30, but if you put two teachers in there, that can maybe get the job done.
Q. How would you keep a class-size-reduction plan from creating a demand for underqualified teachers?
A. Maybe it works with a less qualified teacher sometimes, too--if there’s two in a room. Maybe it’s just that role model. You don’t necessarily have to be qualified with a degree to be a role model and to show kids interest and to show them love. It doesn’t take a degree to do that. Not only that, but I think that when I’m done with this [the governorship], I should be qualified to teach. Why would I need a degree? What about life experiences? That’s a degree in itself. Just because you’ve got a piece of paper from college doesn’t mean that you can teach or can’t teach. There’s book-smart, and there’s street-smart.
Q. How have you gotten involved in your children’s schools?
A. I coach football. You do what you can do. I brought that expertise to the school, and my son didn’t even play football. But when he started at Champlin Park [High School in Champlin, Minnesota], I thought, you know, you hear so much about how schools are so shortchanged on money. I thought that maybe if people can step forward and just give of their time, what price do you put on that?
A version of this article appeared in the March 01, 1999 edition of Teacher as Pinning Down Jesse