We’ve all met unforgettable people in our lives. Some were great in their fields. Some were just people we loved or who had a certain something that drew us to them. This is about one of the unforgettable people in my life.
Chester Tucker was one of the simplest and yet most important men I ever knew. He taught American history to eighth graders at Monnig Junior High School. No, actually, what he did was teach eighth graders to think. Vastly more important than learning a bunch of facts.
Chester raised four kids on the pittance the school system paid him. From the old school, he didn’t believe in wives’ working outside the home, so they lived on his pay while she stayed home to take care of kids and keep house.
One of the first things Chester did that fall was read us two different accounts of the drive from our school to his house. In the first account, he talked of the beautiful scenery, the quaint and lovely brick paving on Camp Bowie Boulevard, and other things he considered to hold beauty or other interest. The second account described the bad paving of the uneven bricks and every other negative thing he could think of to say about the trip and the route.
The point of the exercise was to expose us to the concept of slanted reporting. It was the exact same route in both stories, but one was delightfully cheerful, while the other cast everything in as negative a light as possible. I can’t speak for his other students, but the demonstration certainly hit home for me. Ever since that day I have read and listened to every news account, novel, movie, television show, etc., with my eyes and ears open for the prejudicial slant hidden beneath the surface.
Chester also had the courage to point out inconsistencies and outright falseness in the popular presentations of history. He incurred the wrath of the administration once for telling his students that Columbus did not discover America. That’s been a popular idea for so long it was almost heresy to dispute it.
When an associate superintendent came to call him on the carpet, he pointed to the maps rolled up above his classroom blackboard and asked the man if those were provided by the school district. After an affirmative answer, he went up and pulled down a map showing the likely routes of Leif Ericson and others who crossed the Atlantic long before Columbus was born. Case closed.
Another of his corrections that required a lot of courage involved the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. He made the statement that they were never legally ratified.
He based his contention, with which I happen to agree, on the facts, first that the North took the position that a state could not secede from the union, and secondly that each Southern state was required to ratify those amendments as a condition of being readmitted to the union and being allowed representation in Congress. Regardless of the merits of the three amendments, the Northern position on that is untenable. Either we were never out of the union or else we were. For a century and a half, though, they have managed to have their cake and eat it, too.
One doesn’t have to agree with everything this man taught in order to recognize him as a great teacher and wonderful man. I had other good teachers, but I never had one in high school or at Duke University or Texas Christian University who came close to him in my estimation.
Ø Who are some of your unforgettable characters?
Ø How have some or all of these people affected your life?
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