June 24, 2018

The Inexplicability Remains

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Some things and/or events are, by their very nature, inexplicable. You can spend days together analyzing them or reflecting upon them, but, despite all, the inexplicability remains. A recent set of events will illustrate the point.

As editor of the Doodlebug Island Weekly Run-on, I wrote a series of columns last month in which I was critical of teacher education at state-run universities. Indeed, the word “critical” hardly seems to do my scathing denunciations justice. It would be safe to say my attacks would be thought by some to border on magniloquent bombast. But, though I whaled away at such hide-bound elements as educational research, methods classes, and final dissertations, administrators and staff at none of the Arizona colleges responded with anything less than affability and kindness.

They appeared to enjoy the attention. In fact, the folks at Northern University in Flagstaff went so far as to award me an honorary doctorate in education at a convocation held to honor those who, and I quote, “have shown meritorious accomplishment.” I tell you, if nature had endowed me with conscience I would have recused myself, but it didn’t and I didn’t, and now the oversized parchment hangs on my office wall as a tribute to vanity and for the benefit of those who attach importance to such things.

And, as if this were not enough, I wrote another series of columns castigating the Arizona Department of Transportation for planning wide swaths of highways through the beautiful red rock countryside surrounding Sedona, and for the snail’s pace tempo of projects which tie up traffic for months and years together.

ADOT officials, however, appeared to welcome the criticism and invited me to a special meeting at which they outlined the constraints under which they plan and build. Theirs is a balancing act, they explained, in which they respond to public demand while remaining aware of the need to preserve natural beauty and local lifestyle. They even asked me to accompany them on a helicopter ride over projects already underway or in the planning stage. “Good roads require time,” they said. “We can only hope that the inconvenience is worth it.”

At nearly the same time this was going on, I wrote and published letters to my representatives in Washington complaining to one that if the seven seas were made up of words he would empty them all in a vain attempt to explain the obvious; and demanding of the other some statesman-like leadership in alternative fuel research. Both wrote polite letters back and one even invited me to a one-on-one lunch at which he promised to pick up the check!

On Friday, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction dropped into my office for a friendly chat. His visit followed the publication of one of my more blunt editorials in which I ridiculed the state testing program-AIMS. I had made pointed mention that it was a poor substitute for the California and Iowa Achievement tests, both nationally normed and years old in service. I had gone on to point out how student interest and need had been sacrificed on the altar of devotion to such obtuse studies as algebra and geometry which ninety-nine percent of the population never use or even think about.

But there he was, hand out and smiling! And darned if he didn’t invite me to be part of the review committee formed to make judgment of AIMS effectiveness. We meet next fall.

These events, following so closely upon one another, left me amazed at the power of ink judiciously applied, and at the desire of public officials to be at least understood, if not appreciated and loved. Either or both seemed to involve an element of inexplicability that called for a large measure of that reflective thought I was talking about.

Well, the rewards for being testy and cantankerous were so character forming that I’ve decided to devote my columns and editorials to causes that may produce more tangible benefits. This week I’m writing scathing columns about Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Daimler for failure to produce fuel efficient trucks and cars. All things being equal, the good folks in one or the other of these organizations might wish to improve relations, and might, therefore, be inextricably driven to park a hybrid of some sort in the driveway of this old country editor. Count on me to resist temptation right up to the point it might be taken seriously.

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