My favorite class in seventh grade at Glen Edwards School in Lincoln was social science.
The school, by the way, was named after a World War Il pilot who graduated from Lincoln High who became a test pilot and for whom Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert is named.
The teacher was Al Fleming. While he did not end up being my favorite teacher during my 13-year career as a public school student, he definitely was in the Top 10. His classroom was a 12-year-old political junkie’s dream. The walls were plastered with pilfered campaign signs. When he ran out of space he procured large appliance boxes that he covered with posters and such that he placed among the desks that were not placed in a regimented order that had been the norm since I started first grade. Given this was the fall of 1968 those signs included yard signs for Hubert Humphrey-Edmund Muskie and Richard Nixon-Spiro Agnew — the respective Democrat and Republican tickets for president.
I admit being his class prompted me to do two things that might make me seem a bit odd. The following summer thanks to my first job that paid minimum wage I was able to set aside some money after paying for my school clothes and helping with household expenses to buy three magazine subscriptions. They were to Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report. I ended up using thumbtacks to plaster my bedroom wall with the covers when I was through reading the magazines. I probably shouldn’t tell you there was a time in my life when I got bored I’d flip through an encyclopedia set that my mom struggled to buy to read about random subjects as you might start thinking I was a tad strange.
It’s safe to say I didn’t harbor animosity toward Mr. Fleming.
Why I say that is what I have the most crystal clear memory of is not of what he taught but of everything teachers said to me before I became mesmerized by Virginia Garrett — a hard-nosed old school English literature teacher my freshmen year at Lincoln High — doesn’t cast him in the best of light.
The day before the Nov. 5, 1968 election Mr. Fleming ended his class by telling us to remind our parents to vote but whatever they did “don’t let them vote for Nixon.”
As a 12 year-old I somehow knew such a proclamation to a class full of seventh graders wasn’t apropos. After I got outside the classroom I turned to Kathy Leles and said I didn’t think it was right what Mr. Fleming had said about Nixon. Remember this was the year of the Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy assassinations, rioting in 70 American cities, non-stop protests over the Vietnam War, and bloodshed in the streets of Chicago during the Democratic National Convention.
Kathy just looked at me, shrugged her shoulders and said “that’s just Mr. Fleming being Mr. Fleming.”
I mentioned Mr. Fleming’s remarks that night to my mom.
My mom — a Republican in the Main Street and daughter of a rancher vein, with a healthy libertarian streak, more tolerance than in the collective hearts and souls of those who populate the halls of Congress, and a pragmatic ability to put things in perspective — told me that it wasn’t right for Mr. Fleming to have said what he said. But she added it was understandable given he was on the Placer County Democratic Central Committee and was passionate about things in general. She knew Mr. Fleming as well as his father who mom referred to as “old man Fleming”.
She reminded me to always weigh things and make up my own mind and not kowtow to — or simply fall in line behind — someone else. She also said Mr. Fleming was what my grandmother would have called “good people” meaning you might not like what they believe, how they worship, how they dressed, or the color of their skin but if their heart is in the right place that is how you judge their actions.
That’s one of the charms of living in a small town during a time when people actually visited face-to-face with each other instead of doing so via electronic screens.
What brings this up is the example du jour of the world seemingly going nuts about Trump whether they are part of “The Resistance” or are disdained as being a “Trumper.”
It involved a middle school Spanish teacher by the name of Sarah Ford in Fort Wayne Indiana who assigned students to do a report on “Trump’s many lies.” She also dressed down 8th grader Jacob Hein in the middle of class because he did an assignment translating a news story about a UFO sighting from the FOX News site that she described as being nothing but “fake news” even though the same story was carried by CNN, NBC and USA Today.
Long story short, the teacher fessed up, the school district is taking steps to address what she did, and Hein’s dad wants the teacher fired.
I’m not condoning what the teacher said or the fact an adult teaching Spanish is assigning a politically charged assignment to write in Spanish how Trump is not doing enough to help the Puerto Rico hurricane victims.
What bothers me is when it comes to speech whether it is appropriate or not those on both sides of the fence act as if we are in a radical religious country where if someone steals a piece of bread they demand they are beheaded as punishment.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.