School works well for those willing to sit and concentrate

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 16, 2000

It is none other than Albert Einstein who said: "Education is that which remains when one has forgotten everything he learned in school.

Tuesday, May 16, 2000

It is none other than Albert Einstein who said: "Education is that which remains when one has forgotten everything he learned in school." Hmmmmm.

Email newsletter signup

I think I mentioned my own quotation, actually a line added to an inscription at the base of the flag pole at San Bernardino State College in the early ’70s. It read: "Education never ceases." To that I added, "It is only interrupted by school."

I think school works well for those who are willing to sit still mentally and physically. I just had a hard time of it.

I especially had a hard time listening. Art was an exception. I enjoyed art, but back then it was considered a slough class, it didn’t measure up to math and the sciences – I think art ought to be the core curriculum.

English was a demon. Instead of encouraging us to write what was on our minds, we had to first learn to identify the subject and predicate. Instead of having a simple sentence, now it had two parts. Then we drew a single line under the subject and two lines under the predicate. Kids still do. It gets worse.

Now, instead of the solitary comfort of gazing out the window or visualizing weekend fun, I was forced to scrutinize the papers of students around me especially when we got to adverbs, participles and gerunds.

So what were once simple sentences, sentences that were relatively easy to read, suddenly they became mine fields and uncertainty abounded.

Then came diagraming sentences. Sentences no longer were in a straight line, now there were lines angling up and then short little lines parallel to the sentence containing the word from the sentence that performed a certain task.

At this point it was like I was back in Latin – where I only lasted a few days.

During those few days, I learned to count to 10 in Latin. This was not taxing but unfortunately we also had a daily password one had to recite to get into the class. Now, instead of casually chewing the fat with my peers in the four-minute break between classes I had to make a bee-line to Miss Galbraith’s room and position myself near the door to hear someone recite the password I had forgotten, so I could enter.

I soon transferred to mechanical drawing, saying goodbye to Latin and Miss Galbraith and her pet moth or bee that only spoke Spanish. I told Miss Galbraith I was planning to become an architect so I needed this drawing class instead. I later learned the pet bee or moth that spoke only Spanish met an untimely death with the aid of Dave Bulger, one of our classmates.

Any interest I had in government died in Mr. Meinhard’s civics class. He was nice enough. He didn’t know how to smile and he tried in vain to teach us how a bill becomes a law. My interest waned before it even got to the conference committee and my imagination pulled my eyes to the windows again.

Then there was math. I didn’t mind math until we got to the train part: "If a train leaves Chicago and is heading west and the train leaves Union Station at 3 p.m. traveling at 59 mph and you board a train in St. Louis headed toward Chicago and you leave at 3:15 p.m. and your train is going 50 mph, where will you meet?"

Who cares? Unless I was a Holstein going to a slaughtering plant in Chicago.

Fortunately, I had Miss Martini for two math classes and she prodded me along, pointing out at the end of the year how my text "still looked like new."

Finally there was gym. This wasn’t much better. In swimming, we had to swim naked in the old high school pool. That doesn’t do much for one’s ego in those days, if you know what I mean, even if you were only with boys who thrive on insults.

When we went to the athletic field (Wescott Field) for gym, we would run a block and walk a block while Al Lehrke rode his bike shouting out commands. We got to the athletic field with enough time to choose up sides for half an inning of softball or one series of plays in touch football and we were on our way back to the school.

After the shower, we had to throw our towels into this big basket. The chances of missing it were slim, but occasionally one would miss at which point two upper classman monitoring the dressing room would whack you on the bare behind with a pingpong paddle.

I set up my own towel basket at home and practiced every night for five minutes before I went to bed and first thing in the morning when I got up.

And what a thrill to finally graduate and go off to college, which for many of us was coming back to the same building and going up to college on the third floor where the junior college convened.

Bob Vilt’s column appears Tuesdays