Favorite

Slackers 

Remember school assemblies? No, they weren't very memorable.

I do remember some ghastly films about venereal disease and blood-spattered car wreckage. Most memorable was an aging fellow who made a living by delivering inspirational talks. He posed a question — what is the length of the marathon? — to demonstrate the value of education: He offered $5, a healthy amount in 1967, for a correct answer.

One person in the auditorium got it  — 26 miles, 385 yards. That person was me, a track nut. Until that day, the speaker had never failed to stump his audience. Later, I thought about how reluctantly the old gent peeled five crinkled ones off a tiny roll when the assembly was over.

I was a slacker and so were my pals, counting minutes to lunch-hour hijinks, football practice or cruising Tom and Mac's, the local hangout.

I wonder how I'd have felt about obligatory viewing of a “live” speech from President Lyndon B. Johnson – that is, if we had TVs in those dark ages. I'd have been disinterested, most likely. Johnson's oratory probably wouldn't have roused me out of my usual torpor.

A more interesting question is whether angry adults would have raised enough ruckus to scare the school district out of showing an LBJ speech (or to prompt the school district to invent imaginary obstacles to its showing). I think not. But that's not necessarily a sign of better times. Conformity was valued above all else in those days. Parents weren't any more likely to complain about a presidential speech than about the “Pastor of Bourbon Street” and the other evangelists and charlatans who talked their way onto assembly programs at our public school, where the day always began with a PA prayer.

Barack Obama is not Lyndon Johnson. His otherness – race, name, ideas – contributed to the irrational fear of his televised presence in a classroom. But fear of his gifts may have been a more important factor, even if the protestors didn't recognize that fear in themselves. It is easy to demonize someone known only by the caricatures of his critics. It is far harder to demonize someone you can see and hear for yourself, especially someone with a proven appeal to young people. Many high schoolers will vote in 2010; lots more in 2012.

Obama had a political goal, to be sure: to wrap the presidency in popular objectives and expose millions to his skills. But schools have pep rallies such as Obama planned all the time, with speakers of far less stature than the leader of the free world. The craven school officials who jumped to assure patrons that Obama's face wouldn't darken their classrooms only reinforced most students' already-low opinion of their wardens. “What are they afraid of?” the slackers would ask, though likely in more colorful language.

I had to laugh at the ritzy local private school that informed parents that its school day wouldn't be “interrupted” by a presidential speech. The newsletter added ever so delicately, on the remote chance any broad-minded people were on the circulation list, “We encourage those families who would like for their children to see the President's address to make arrangements to record it and view it together as a family at a later time.”

You'd think a national talk on condom use had been planned, not a presidential pep talk. But guess what? As with sex ed, the kids still will get the message.

 

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • The assault on Obamacare begins

    Donald Trump Friday night signed an executive order directing government to scale back Obamacare to the extent possible. Though the signing was mostly symbolic, it likely has implications for Arkansas.
    • Jan 21, 2017
  • Two dead in North Little Rock shooting

    two people were fatally wounded about 9 p.m. Friday in a home in the 1400 block of Division Street, North Little Rock.
    • Jan 21, 2017
  • 2nd Amendment meets the 1st in Fayetteville on campus carry

    They've had a forum in Fayetteville today on Rep. Charlie Collins' fervent desire to force more pistol-packing people onto the campus at the University of Arkansas (and every other college in Arkansas.) He got an earful from opponents.
    • Jan 20, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Supremely discredited

    Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood and her allies continue to discredit the state's highest court.
    • Jul 30, 2015
  • Hutchinson pulls Faubus move

    I don't know what if anything might arise or be planned in the future relative to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's order to end Medicaid reimbursement for medical services (not abortion) provided by Planned Parenthood in Arkansas.
    • Aug 20, 2015
  • Neighborliness, in Little Rock and beyond

    I had a parochial topic in mind this week — a surprise plan by Mayor Mark Stodola to address the Arkansas Arts Center's many needs.
    • Nov 19, 2015

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Facing closure, Wilson Elementary families deliver angry message to school leaders

    "Why do you guys not care about your community? You’re tearing it down, not building it up, especially in the black community … It’s just a simple question — do you care?" one mother asked the superintendent. "Ma’am, I do care deeply about this district, and I do believe wholeheartedly we are making a better district every day," Poore replied.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Pork and more

    Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Praising Asa

    Let us now praise the governor for a starkly moderate record, at least in comparison with other red-state executives.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • More on LRSD tax

    When the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and a Walton Foundation-paid lobbyist, long devoted critics of the Little Rock School District, lead the messaging for a quarter-billion dollars in new tax debt for the district, it is cause for caution.
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »

January

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • You signed yourself "silly," and you surely are.

    • on January 23, 2017
  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • Lyons doesn't have an ex-wife, silly.

    • on January 23, 2017
  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • What? That was all made up? Oh my. Well, let's hope he gets busy on…

    • on January 22, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation