High Desert Sketches

Schools, the pandemic and modern education 

If the so-called “constitutional carry” law had been in effect in 1950, I would have never made it out of the first grade at Grim Elementary. When Miss Steele wrote a word on the board and told us to copy it down, she turned to find me standing behind her. She immediately wanted to know why I was not at my desk, and I explained that I had to be a few feet from the word to see it. She asked, “Where are your glasses?” and I explained that glasses did not help my eye condition. Despite the fact that I had a note from the eye doctor, my poor mother was forced to buy me glasses that did not help me one bit. Miss Steele then informed me that I was to sit on the front desk of the first row despite the fact that I could not see any better. Later that day I was disciplined for talking for the third time and received a paddling with a ping pong paddle in the cloakroom. Before the year was out, three ping pong paddles had been broken trying to impede my free speech. 

One day Miss Steele caught me talking and decided to give me the ultimate punishment, “George if you have something to say come up to the front of the room and tell the whole class.” Half an hour later she realized she had made a terrible mistake. 

For the rest of the year, when she reached a point of despair she would call me to the front of the room and simply say, “Tell them a story,” and she would leave the room for half an hour. I thought she was being rather brave because half the room consisted of us kids from the housing project. I really enjoyed these times when I had free reign over my First Amendment rights and imagination. The class remained silent during my most creative stories, most involving cartoon characters. If we had been wearing masks when Miss Steele returned to the room she would have called for the local SWAT Team after emptying her Colt .45 at anything that moved. 

Toward the end of the school year, she said, “Covington, come to my desk.” I protested because I had not been talking. When I arrived at her desk, she said, “If you ever earn an honest dollar in your life it would be as a writer, now go back to your desk.” That was the first piece of wisdom I got from Grim Elementary. The second bit of wisdom I received came a few years later when I discovered a quote from Albert Einstein. He stated (although I later discovered he may have not said it, but he should have): “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”

The third thing I learned was that anything outside the norm of the day was communist-based. I didn’t know what a communist was, but I knew it was applied to people who wanted to warp our little minds and probably send us to hell. If you look around today, we could be back in 1950. Is it any wonder that I began to write satirically in high school? Gov. Abbott’s party has decided that they are all super educators and can decide what is best for the state’s children because the word communist is too complex for most of the gov’s political base and they have trouble spelling it. The gov has discovered a shiny new set of words with which to engage and enrage his followers. Making his usual pious pronouncements with righteous rectitude, he proclaimed that he will save all the school children from “critical race theory.” 

Never mind that the governor and his followers don’t have the slightest idea of what “critical race theory” is all about or why the theory was created. I recently heard an interview with the creator of racial political theory. The academician stated, “I created critical race theory as a tool for graduate students in the social sciences. It was always intended as a research tool for these graduate students, not for the elementary, secondary or high school students.” It’s obvious that the governor likes to pick terms he knows nothing about and then defines them in any way that suits his current political cause. 

The gov’s latest dip into schizophrenic politics is to proclaim himself fit to ignore the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control while every medical professional is proclaiming that the new COVID-19 delta variant can be slowed if children returning to class are told to wear a protective mask. He has proclaimed that only he can make mandates –– not the local educational or medical professionals. School districts in Houston, Austin, Dallas, and at least 41 other school districts have announced they will ignore his rantings. Their common sense may save hundreds of lives, but who cares, the kids can’t vote in the next election. This kind of political non-thinking will allow my readers to understand why I have always had an appreciation for the absurd.