• The parents of Marian Wright Edelman were serious about education. Each school night, she and her siblings were expected to sit down and do their homework. Whenever one of the children said that the teacher had not assigned any homework, her father used to say, “Well, assign yourself.” Ms. Edelman once made out a list of “Twenty-Five Lessons for Life,” based on the values she had learned from her parents. Lesson 3 was, “Assign yourself. Don’t wait around to be told what to do.” In 1973, she founded the Children’s Defense Fund, which attempts to get federal legislation passed to help children.
• When Trey Reely, the band director of Paragould High School in Paragould, Arkansas, was in school, he had a hard-working, caring teacher who one day got very angry at her students. After she recited a long list of things she had done for the students that the students did not appreciate, she told them, “If you think I do a good job, raise your hands.” The students were stunned by her tirade and sat without making a move. The teacher then yelled, “GET YOUR HANDS UP!” They did.
• Much of the United States is more tolerant than one might expect from hearing talk radio shows and reading letters to the editor. A few years ago, Charles Rice attended his senior prom at Taylor High School in Pierson, Florida, in drag—high heels and all. The high school administration was a little upset, but the students were nonchalant. Jennifer Strickland even said of Mr. Rice’s drag queen talents, “I’ve seen him dressed up and you can’t tell [he’s a guy] until you look at his feet.”
• While studying art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Andy Warhol was an original. Sometimes he handed in artwork that had little or nothing to do with the assignment. For example, pictorial design professor Robert Lepper once assigned his students to find a building that served as a home, imagine what kind of family lived there, and then draw the living room that they imagined could be found in that home. Mr. Warhol drew his own family’s living room.
• Janet Lynn was such a talented figure skater that when she was only three-and-a-half years old, she was already in a skating class for teenagers. One problem arose when the teacher of the class told the students to write a paper about figure skating—Janet was so young that she hadn’t learned yet to write. Fortunately, she was able to pass the class by drawing pictures with crayons.
• Emma Blades, the paternal grandmother of Panamanian salsa singer Rubén Blades, educated her sons at home so she could use her scarce money to have her daughters educated at school. She had a good reason for doing this. Since she felt that this is a man’s world, she believed that her daughters needed the education more than her sons.
• In 1978, Cal Ripken, Jr., signed a contract to play baseball for the Baltimore Orioles organization. For an 18-year-old, Mr. Ripken showed remarkable intelligence. His signing bonus was only $20,000, but he insisted on a clause requiring the Orioles to give him a four-year college scholarship if baseball didn’t work out.
• Clara Null was teaching a Sunday School class to third-graders. The topic was the Ten Commandments, and she was worried that she might get some embarrassing questions when she reached “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Sure enough, one little girl raised her hand and asked, “What does ‘commit’ mean?”
• When cartoonist Matt Groening was in high school, he ran for office on the Students for Decency ticket. His campaign slogan was, “If you’re against decency, what are you for?” Once elected class president, he tried but failed to have the student government constitution changed to give him absolute power.
• Track and golf star Babe Didrikson’s early coach, Colonel Melvin J. McCombs, knew exactly how to motivate her. While she was training for the high jump, he promised her a treat each time she successfully jumped a new personal high two times in a row—a chocolate soda.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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