Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Mr. Rod Paige, Secretary of Education
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202
Dear Secretary Paige,
Boy, have I got egg on my face! Remember my grandson Lester’s story with all the oxymorons? He got suspended from school because they said it was disrespectful to Our President. Remember how I was proud anyway, because I thought it was a pretty good story for an eleven-year-old?
Well, guess what? I was bragging to my wife, Viola, about what a good writer little Lester is, and she said, “Carl, you old fool, I wrote that story for him!”
I couldn’t believe my ears. “You did what?” I said.
“You heard me,” she said. “I wrote Lester’s story. Oh--I take it back. Lester wrote the first line: ‘This is the true story of a poor rich kid named Oxy Moron.’ I wrote the rest. Except the last line: ‘As they say in his native state of Texas, ‘This bird dog won’t hunt!’ ” Lester wrote that, too. I tried to talk him out of it--I thought it was a weak ending. But he insisted, so I let him keep it in.”
Secretary Paige, as I told you, my wife and I have been having troubles lately. It all started when she got this bug in her bonnet about voting for John Kerry. She’s been turning the whole family against me and now they’re all piling on, just because I’m a Patriotic American who loves Our President more than life itself! They say I’ve lost my way.
And it’s true! I don’t do anything my way anymore--I sleep on the couch almost every night now. I slept on the couch last night after I found out Viola had written Lester’s story. I said, “How could you do that?!”
She said, “I don’t know. I kept telling him the “bird dog won’t hunt” line was a weak ending, but Lester is almost as stubborn as you.”
I asked her if the story was really about Our President. She rolled her eyes. “No Carl,” she said. “It’s about your president.”
“Stop grinding your teeth,” I said. “You know about your TMJ.”
“Did you notice when my TMJ started?” she asked. “It started about the time your president hijacked the country. I’ve been grinding my teeth ever since, and I will continue to until Kerry gets inaugurated in January!”
I was about to ask her what she meant, but she was on a roll. “You like oxymorons?” She was shouting now. “Here are some oxymorons for you:
Although your president has received critical acclaim for his crisis management, it is an open secret that he is a perfect idiot who is doing nothing to avert a minor disaster. He is a social outcast whose idea of criminal justice is to set up a government organization run by FBI Intelligence and CIA Intelligence and Creation Scientists and a host of shadowy figures of unknown identity who love to play war games and are raping and pillaging like a bunch of Hell’s Angels while the hopelessly optimistic public is watching the whole show with deafening silence, and it’s about even odds whether we can get out of this mess!”
I was stunned. “So, what’s your point?” I said.
That was when she broke the news about Lester. We thought Hoover Elementary would let him come back after he apologized, but now he can’t go back because the school closed down. They ran out of money.
They’ve been having trouble for a couple of years now. Actually, come to think of it, right about the time No Child Left Behind got started. They were doing pretty well until Reagan Elementary closed down because they ran out of money. That meant all the kids from Reagan had to get bussed to Lester’s school, and Hoover’s grade average went down. So Hoover got put on the “Needs Improvement” list, which meant the kids had to work and work on reading and math so they could pass their tests and Dear Old Hoover Elementary wouldn’t have to close. And it worked! Those kids could read and they could add 2+2! But they didn’t know the capitol of their state of Oregon (Salem), and they didn’t know the formula for water (H2O), and they couldn’t draw a tree if their life depended on it.
But it was all a moot point because Hoover Elementary ran out of money and shut it’s doors for the last time. I don’t know what we’re going to do now. Maybe we’ll bus him to Coolidge Elementary, which is an hour away. Maybe we’ll send him to a Faith-Based School. But I doubt if we can afford it, even with vouchers. I don’t want to send him back to my nutty daughter in Michigan, but I hear there are still some schools open out there.
Anyway, I just wanted you to know that was mostly Viola’s story and not Lester’s. I wouldn’t want you to raise the bar too high for him. But give him a few years! With a good education, I bet he could write a story like that, too!