Saturday, September 18, 2004

12th Grade: Part III

At DHS, 5th Period was the block that met for ~1 hour every day. I had the great fortune of having as an instructor Mr. Tom Pagley. The first semester, he taught Honors Economics. While all the really smart kids took Micro/Macro Economics with a college professor, I had the very basic form of Economics. Trust me when I say that the course was very easy. We had someone a guest speaker every week from the business community. Actually, it was the same speaker for the entire semester. She’d come in and tell us about the real world. I don’t think I really learned anything from her. It was probably an excuse for Pagley to waste one hour a week reading his newspaper and drinking coffee. The highlight of Honors Economics was Pagley’s legendary “bullet point” notes. Before the test, he’d hand out notes that basically answered every question. Then he’d even let us use them during the exam. It would have been one thing had the question actually required some critical thinking. You’d have to be a moron to get less than an “A”. The moment I remember most from that semester was the morning of September 11, 2001. I had just learned about the WTC attacks as I walked into the classroom. Right when the bell rang, he turned off the TV and handed out an exam. The guy never stuck to his guns on exam dates, but he made us take one on the morning of 9/11. Albeit, the test was laughably easy. Still, I don’t know why he’d give it to us while the nation was under attack.

I thought Pagley would raise the level of discourse when the class progressed to Advanced Placement American Government. I understood lowering the standards for an Honors course. But A.P. is the pinnacle of High School achievement. Sadly, the semester was as mind-numbingly boring as the previous one. For some reason, all he did was pound into our heads the 3 branches of government: executive, judiciary, and legislative. The sad thing is that probably only half of the class would remember that today. In part because of bad preparation, I only got a “3” on the A.P. exam. In contrast, I earned a “5” for my American History examination.

I hope I’m not seen as disparaging Mr. Pagley. Of all the teachers in High School, he was in my Top 5 hands down. There are times when I think of him as my favorite instructor. I learned later that he intentionally made the year easy for us. He understood that it was Senior year and didn’t want to put us under a lot of pressure. And another dirty little secret. Pagley acknowledged that many in the class were not worthy of A.P. status. When I spent a little time alone with him, I realized that he was a thoroughly decent man. I don’t believe Social Studies were his forte. He coached track and J.V. football. If he wanted to, I’m sure he could have stood up and lectured for the full hour. I know for a fact that he was a bright individual. You don’t graduate from Columbia without being intelligent.

There was one incident that brought Pagley and I together on a more personal level. Near the end of Senior year, I became incredulous with part of his daily class routine. He would have us watch a taped television program called “CNN Student News”. If you think regular CNN is crap, then just think about what the student version would be like. It’s unquestionable that for any well-informed adult, the presentation is a joke. It was probably arrogant of me to think that way. A lot of the students probably did get something out of that simplified news program. One day, myself and I believe my friend Eric signed on to a letter complaining about the assignment. I didn’t make things better by having a surrogate deliver the letter to Pagley, while I scurried off into the foreground. I don’t remember the specifics, but I lambasted the program. I refrained from saying anything personal about Mr. Pagley. On Monday, he came to me and discussed what I had written. Surprisingly, he didn’t take any umbrage. Deep down, he understood where I was coming from. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I’m sure Pagley would have loved for all the students to be as well informed as I. Not saying that I’m smarter than anyone else, but I do pay attention to news and current events. By the end of the semester, him and I developed a marginally good rapport. He’d josh me about my support of liberal ideals. I pretty well concluded that Pagley was a former Republican whom had switched to Independent. He confided that in 2000, he voted for Vice President Al Gore. I’d love to go back to DHS and see if he supporters Kerry this year.

I don’t have quite as much to say about 6th Period English IV Honors. English was always my strong suit, so two “A’s” was the only acceptable result. And I achieved them without much struggle. A lot of people thought Ms. Linda Friday was painstakingly boring. I have to agree with that assessment, even though I liked her immensely. We read through the classes like “MacBeth”. One enjoyable quarter was when we read “Lord of the Flies”. I was very honored when Friday awarded me the award for excellence in English IV Honors. Politically, Friday struck me as a conservative Democrat. I’m fairly certain that she was indeed a Democrat. She had the mentality of a woman raised in the heartland. I remember that her family was from Illinois. There were certain expectations that she had of teenagers. She was astounded at how many kids had cars. Back in her days, everyone had to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. I sort of felt bad for Ms. Friday. At times, it was literally impossible to stay awake during class. She’d get up and read from the various stories. Years ago, she might have been an acceptable teacher. These days, instructors make more of an effort to liven up the assignments. It’s a shame that she took so much grief from students, behind her back.

Part IV...

Period 7: Newspaper w/ Mae Bennett

I decided to make Newspaper a separate post. I was running a bit long and want to split it up a bit.


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