Today is Election Day 2012 and my daughter, an excellent blogger in her own right, challenged us to remember the teacher who had impacted us the most in American history or political science. For me it was Mr. Arnold, Bob Arnold, to be specific (I think) who taught a number of subjects at Golden High School back in the 60s. Mr. Arnold was a fiery red-head (aren't all red-heads fiery?) and somewhat ill-tempered if I recall and the class was a requirement for graduation, one I'd been putting off until my senior year, called Sociology. I hated Sociology. It was stupid. I already knew all this stuff. We argued about LBJ vs. Barry Goldwater. "In your heart, you know he's right...far right!" I was a right-wing, junior Republican, conservative, bomb 'em into oblivion kind of guy and he, Mr. Arnold, used to argue with me just to get me going, I think. In my final quarter I even got a C. Worst teacher I ever had. Stupid teacher!
By the following year I was a left-wing, draft-dodging, card-burning hippie who enjoyed the privilege of being able to imbibe in 3.2% malted beverages in more-than-ample quantities. On one of my visits to my hometown, on one such night of exercising that privilege in abundance with some other old mates, we drove to the school where I proceeded to lead the pack in breaking into the old temporary classroom where that stupid old teacher Mr. Arnold had his classroom. We turned over desks, dumped out textbooks to the floor, caused general mayhem and wrote "You're stupid, Mr. Arnold!" on the blackboard. I do remember being confused by the textbooks in the desks. Even back in those days, you took your textbooks with you. You didn't leave them in the desks.
Next week in the local paper the headline read, "Officials appalled by vandalism to special ed classroom." You know that feeling of dread mixed with shame that begins somewhere in your chest and begins its slow torturous climb up the neck, burning and reddening through your face until your head begins to throb and your mouth opens with a whisper, "Oh, ----!" It was one of those moments.
For those of you who know me, you know that my daughter Hannah was born with Down syndrome in 1976. I changed my career from regular education to the field of disabilities in 1982 and retired still in that field in 2009. I now am raising another daughter with cognitive disabilities. I've often wondered. Payback? Penance?
I'm sorry, Mr. Arnold. I was really stupid! But I voted today, Mr. Arnold. I've voted in every election since 1968. Thanks for challenging me, thanks for making me think, and thanks for the C. I deserved worse.