Veterans’ Tales by Vassar Bushmills
In the mid 90s, before I began traveling to the Soviet Bloc regularly, and finding out what their outhouses looked like, I taught a few semesters at a small business college in Cincinnati.
They students were all black, mostly young women, and from the looks of the nursery across the hall, mostly all young mothers.
This was during the period when Newt Gingrich took over the House, and among other things, forced Bill Clinton to sign into law the ending of AFDC (Aid to Families With Dependent Children) after previously vetoing it, then, proved successful he claimed as his own signature achievement.
These girls were there to get Associate Degrees (A.D.) in various business courses, so they could then get jobs and get off welfare. (I ended up writing letters for several.) My job was to teach them subjects that were required to graduate but which were absolutely meaningless to them in the new marketplace they were about to enter, courses like American Government, which most had taken only a few years earlier in high school and probably slept through then, too.
The course was presented in 3-hour increments, so I knew I was going to get a lot of attitude from some of those girls, while others would snooze on the back row. I needed grab them quickly by making the course relevant to their lives.
So, instead of teaching the textbook version of American Government, “read Chapters 3-4 and 5” etc., I decided to teach the course entirely in terms of how American Government was relevant to them…and those little kids over in the nursery across the hall. I had to deliver three hours of sermons every day, but luckily on subjects I was very good at discussing.
My first lecture always began something like this:
I would go to the chalkboard as the students were settling in, and begin drawing a picture of an Egyptian pyramid on the far left hand side, tagging that at 3000 BC, then draw out a long timeline to the right, ending with the date of the Constitution, but leaving several inches from the edge of the board for a few more notes[…]