JOHN THE AVATAR- PART III

Without considering that I am going crazy a number of years ago, I created a character called John as my avatar. As I reached my physical inability to take a jump shot, vault over anything, or throw a baseball any faster than 40 miles per hour, I invented John as my co-conspirator.

John can do most anything. He is of super intelligence; witness his vast winnings on Jeopardy, breaking all of its records. He also was magnificent in both the Winter and Summer Olympic Games. You may have seen him win the biathlon, the Greco Roman Heavyweight wrestling title and a raft of track and field medals.

All in all John can do most anything. The nice thing about John is that he never complains or has a bad day. I can go to him when I am in a foul mood and have him talk me out of it. Just a quick look at John and I am calm at that moment. He also has an effect on others through me. When I am upset about possibly losing my wallet in Bamberg South Carolina, he is there telling me that my wallet is somewhere in the house. He is invariably right.

John has no taste for politics. He is completely oblivious to what is happening in our country.  Actually, John has never declared what country he comes from. He is absolutely a universal man with no ties to other people, places or things.

His view of life is not akin to mine. He has no use for material objects and is not aware of how he is clothed or whether or not he has had a haircut in the last few months. His appearance is always the same. He is 6 foot 9 inches tall and can leap like a gazelle. In his basketball format, he can start of at the three point line and without walking or touching the ground dunk the ball. His recent attempts at maintaining a triple double for the first 20 games of the NBA season has been outshone by Russell Westbrook. John will continue with his effort and will probably be the first player to average a triple double for the whole season since Oscar Robertson.

John is also not money conscious. His view of money is that it is a method to attain some loftier goal. He does massive charity work and visits children’s hospitals whenever he is not playing some sort of sport.

As he gets a bit older, he does not age like we do; his skills seem to be getting honed. When he first broke the mile record at 3:40, he expected there to be a great hulabaloo.Track aficionados applauded, but it was not like Dr. Roger Bannister breaking the four minute mile.

John is kind of susceptible to criticism. He will sulk for a while and then get out of his funk very quickly. He bears no resemblance to me at all. That is a good thing.

I AM A NEANDERTHAL

I am not kidding. My genetic makeup is 2.3% Neanderthal and the rest is good old boring Ashkenazi. Although my ancestor Neanderthals died out about 40,000 years ago, they intermingled with homo sapiens to produce me and my like humans.

There isn’t much information about Neanderthals. There is a cave in Croatia that has updated their history, nothing much else.  About 200,000 years ago they migrated from Eastern Africa to Europe and spent the next 160,000 years cruising the European continent and producing offspring.

I learned all of these things from 23 and me, purchased as a birthday present by my children. They thought it might be interesting to see where we all came from. Now they have some idea where the prominent forehead and long arms come from.

After I told them my DNA background, they immediately began to explain some of my activities over the past 78 years. I even got a text message from my 16 year old daughter with a painting of a face of a Homo Neanderthalis. She was sure that it looked like me. So there you sniveling Cro Magnon or Peking Man or Olduvi Gorge people. I am Neanderthal and I am coming after you.

JUST A TREAT TO SEE THIS SCHOOL DISTRICT

One of the purposes of the new organization that we are starting in South Carolina (SCORS) is to find out some common problems in rural school districts. We are also looking for some innovative and great things that rural schools are doing despite disadvantages of funding.

Besides a meeting with rural superintendents once every two months, we are traveling to rural school districts to actually see what is happening and  speak with the superintendent, staff members, community residents and also some of the students.

For us Yankees, plus Dr. Vashti Washington a retired South Carolina school superintendent, it has been an eye opener. Even the physical surroundings are at odds with our experience. The flora and fauna are different. The fields do not contain a bunch of corn, but have cotton, soybeans, and the major crop of tobacco. All of this has to be put into context by our tour guides, usually the school superintendent.

Since we have 105 years between my wife Carol and me, the education part is the most familiar. Today, along with Dr. Washington, we visited the Clarendon 1 School District. For us, it was a treat. The district exists in Summerton South Carolina. As a sage ruralist once said, “you know you are rural if you live horizontally, rather than vertically.”

Summerton has changed dramatically over the years. A plant that employed many of the residents has moved to Alabama. The school district population has gone down to about 900 from the days of 1500 students. That makes the operation of the school most difficult. Yet, we did not see a frowny face in the three and one half hours we spent visiting the schools.

The school district is fortunate to have the wonderful leadership of Dr. Rose Wilder, who has been there for 12 years. Her tenure coincides with the development of innovative programs to help the students and the community. She is a whirlwind of activity and seemed to know everyone that we encountered.

As an example, we visited a foster grandparents program in a library. The senior citizens were reading to the children and having conversations with them. Dr. Wilder knew all of the grandparents, but even more interesting was that she knew their families including their grandchildren. Having been a school superintendent, I was amazed at her ability.

The district runs an early childhood center for pre-kindergarten to second grade. It was a pleasure to walk through the building, which is decorated on every wall space with murals and children’s drawings. That was a feature in all of the school buildings that we visited. That is always a good sign. In the high school, the art teacher has produced young people who can draw beautifully. Their portraiture was first rate and a treat for the eyes. The art teacher is himself, an artist of some repute.

The elementary school grades 3 through 6, was a beehive of activity. We were able to see many classrooms. We were introduced to a music teacher who had a class filled with children playing the violin. How often do you see that in a less than wealthy suburban school district? They also have dance classes for the children.

There seemed to be no limit to the imagination of the staff in the school district. As northerners, it was hard to comprehend the nature of education before Brown v. Board of Education. Most people do not realize that Brown was not the only plaintiff in the case. There were a number of cases that were combined and one of them was Clarendon I. The family in the case still lives in the district. Students study the case. The tour included the old black schools and the old white high school that is now administrative offices.

Another outstanding feature of the district was an old black high school that was converted to a community resource center. This building is available for community use and contains all manner of programs that engage community members such as literacy, parenting, computer literacy, job related programs and many others. It is a true center for the needs of the school district community.

YUP, IT’S ALREADY HAPPENING

As a result of the election on Tuesday and the tacit support given to racist groups, kids are now feeling that it is o.k. to say what they have been taught either at home or among their peer groups. Lots of Swastikas, chanting of Heil Hitler (as if the kids know what they are saying), white people rule, both anti- black, anti-muslim and anti-Semitic statements by students and non-students.

This has evidently been pent up for a long time. I think of ethnic groups who actually voted for Donald Trump and are now the objects of these attacks. Are they wondering why they voted that way? Reminds me a bit of Brexit and the people who voted to leave the E.U. not knowing why they voted to leave.

How about the former followers of Bernie Sanders who did not vote for Hillary Clinton. They stayed home or they voted for Gary Johnson. How about the hundreds of thousands of people who did not vote for a president. There were 88,000 of those in Michigan alone. What did you think would happen if Sec. Clinton lost? Did you think that Mr. Trump would suddenly become a liberal and eschew all of the things he said?

Take a look at all of the things that his team has promised to do in the first 100 days. Since I am not a Lawrence Tribe kind of person and have never taught or was a student at Harvard Law School, so I don’t’ know if the President can do all of things that he wants to do without the consent of Congress. Can you imagine what kind of Supreme Court Justices he will try and appoint?

When are we going to see the programs that will put many of millions of folks to work? How will getting out of all of the trade agreements affect our economy? When we put tariffs on things coming into this country, what do you think other countries will do? What about the Affordable Care Act? Can we see only parts of it be eliminated? Large increases in premiums seem to be centered in states that did not take federal funds for Medicaid people. Those states that did agree to take the money seem to have lower increases.

Will congress, now in complete control of the Republicans, agree to everything that the President says? That very rarely is the case. What will happen when the President is rebuffed by his own party? Will he spend his nights tweeting out bad things about his own party? Will he single out certain members of congress and call them names? I can see in now. Jeff is Flakey and is not in tune with my proposals. How about unelecting him.

How about the President refusing credentials to some members of the media, whom he does not like. Will Bretbart get all of the scoops? Will the Drudge Report suddenly become the preferred reading of the masses? Will the New York Times feel the wrath of the President, as it already has been tweeted?

Will the President both do and say anything that he wants? Will there really be checks and balances in our democracy?

IT’S JUST NOT FAIR

Did you ever have a thought or series of thoughts that were so bothersome that you could not utter them in public or put them down on paper? I imagine that most of you have. There is something that has been stuck in my craw (that’s somewhere near my isle of Langerhans).

The more that I work with the kids in Jasper County, South Carolina; the more angry I get about how they are getting shafted. It appears that the “system” is set up to screw most of the students, no matter their background, their race, or ethnic background. I have not made a study of this state or any other state that surrounds South Carolina, but I will theorize that it is pretty much the same.

Last year, when I was working with 10 young men from the Ridgeland –Hardeeville High School, I became aware of what resources were not available to the school. The “Jasper Gentlemen” did not complain about the lack of materials or computers, or lab equipment, or even foreign teachers who were tough to understand. They could not know that there are places just across the county border which had all of those things, except for the foreign teachers.

The Jasper Gents have now graduated. They are mostly in college, with two saving money to go and one in the reserves to get college benefits from the army. I never really discussed the lack of materiel, both human and otherwise with them. I did not want to make them feel like they were being cheated, but they were.

This year, with the “Jasper Gentlemen II” I have deliberately chosen to meet with them individually from time to time. It is within those sessions that I learned two things. They do have some idea of what is missing and they are spectacularly bright. I did know that they were smart kids from the beginning. I had asked the Assistant Principal, last year, to give me 10 articulate young men. These were not always the top of the class, but he was right on the money.

This time, I asked last year’s Gents to give me the names of 10 articulate juniors and seniors. They far outdid their job. I guess I was so enamored of my own ability to help these guys, that I did not fully take notice of their capabilities. I have turned that around this year and the situation has been enlightening.

These young men are aware of what is going on in this world and in their community. They have opinions about most of the happenings in our country and in the world. They can actually tell you about a world leader that they admire. Not sure if they know where or what Aleppo is, but they can look it up.

I became so frustrated with how the state and the federal government treat these people. In other places, they would be looking at the best schools in the country and would be able to get in and thrive. I did ask the counselors if any of their former students went to Ivy League schools. Yes, they told me that one student went to Harvard.

I believe that some of the guys that I work with could actually achieve entry into one of those schools. Carol and I have made suggestions at the highest levels of government about how to spend a few bucks and give these young people access to, at least, the newest science equipment. I have mentioned, the “Science in Motion “van and another  van to screen small children to catch their disabilities early. There is also some work that can be done to introduce some more AP courses into the curriculum. We have done that in PA, in some really rural places. We approached the College Board with an idea to get teachers trained for AP work. We got a grant from the Department of Education to do the training. Lo and behold, a number of rural schools accumulated more AP courses.

Infrastructure enhancements, including new buildings and the latest equipment have to be part of any overhaul of a school district. We have toured five rural school districts and the problems are about the same.

Someone has got to understand that underfunding these schools will keep the economy of SC, its roads and jobs in the backwater of our country. Yes, there are companies coming in to take advantage of the low wages, right to work (no unions), and low taxation. My experience is that can go on for just a small length of time. We need a trained workforce and some heavy duty economic development. none of that matters, however, if you don’t have a good educational system.

SAWFT WAWM DAWGIE

Pronounce the AW sound in each of these words as you would in the word SAW. There you have it. Yes, it is a SOFT WARM DOGGIE. However if you use those words in a place like Brooklyn, N.Y., you would pronounce it as the title of this blog.

Having been here in South Carolina for over a year, I have noticed some speech patterns of which I had never heard.  There were and are a group of islands off Hilton Head Island that have housed a group of people called the Gullah. They have a patois that is somewhat like a southern drawl combined with an African American accent. Having not ever heard of them, the accent was impossible to pinpoint.

The use of the word Y’ALL is in the same usage as the Western Pennsylvania use of the word YOU’NS. If you have never heard that being used than you are missing a great auditory experience. The conjugation of the verb “to be” you wind up with YOU’NS BE.

What do you call the thing that you carried your lunch in when you were a kid (no one does it now). Was it a lunch box, lunch pail, lunch bad, or sack? How about soda, pop, or even phosphate way up in New England?

Can you identify a part of the continent where the word about sounds like aboot? How about the English speaking part of Canada and some parts of Maryland? This always tickled me as a student of languages in Brooklyn. The word oil is pronounced “earl” and the word earl is pronounced “oil.”

Here it’s “baabeque” and pulled pork. I often wonder about the pulling of the pork. Does it mean somehow that it goes through some grinding machine, or do you actually pull the pig so that it stretches to conform to a sandwich? Baabeque is quite a dish down here and restaurants compete to see who has the best baabeque.