On crisp autumn Friday nights in my collegiate hometown, visiting teams in the late 1980s who made strong plays against the Norman High School Tiger football team might hear “We have more National Merit Scholars than you do!” Maybe our team didn’t win every football game, but we were sure proud of our academic success. Of the six teachers I had my junior year, four held doctorate degrees. The two who didn’t were the yearbook advisor and the history teacher. Feeding straight into stereotypes, the history teacher was among the football coaches.
These days, Norman has two high schools. I presume football is still important to both the Tigers and whoever prances around in green on a campus haunted by spirits of Longfellow Middle School past. I am sure that residents of Norman will say academics are still important, but it’s hard to believe that they have the same level of support as back in the day when the town had never voted down a bond for education.
My English teachers had us read the classics, which consisted of nearly all the banned and challenged books of last century. With a few exceptions, these were books about white people written by white men. These offensive texts typically exposed us to profanity or religion or socialism/communism. My teachers didn’t seek banned and challenged books, but we students sure did! Thank goodness I wasn’t a teen mom. I would have named my kid Holden, and lord knows this planet has enough phonies in it.