To the editor:
Mr. Leroy Strawser took delight in asking us Greenwood 5th and 6th graders what the capital of Alaska was. This was before Alaska became a state in 1959. He would deliberately ask, "Do you know what the capital of Alaska is?" We sat in silence because not one of us dare risk giving the wrong answer and suffering the consequences of being laughed at.
Mr. Strawser would again ask the same question, this time stressing the first three words of the question. "Do you know what the capital of Alaska is?" Again, silence, although some of us began to suspect there was some hidden significance in the question.
Mr Strawser asked the question again, this time emphasizing and altering the first word. "Ju you know what the capital of Alaska is?" Again, silence. Mr Strawser was tickled he pulled one over on us.
Today, 58 years later, I know the capitals of Alaska, Hawaii, California, Texas, and the rest of the 46 states. I don't know why I know them, and I certainly can't imagine why anyone would care that I know this baseline of information. It is more than likely it is not going to come up as a topic of conversation at a cocktail party.
In addition to the names of the states, the extent of my knowledge when I graduated from high school is that I could put the world wars in order and thought White Fang was the best book ever written.
Today, I could go on and on about how George Washington nearly lost our War for Independence, how John Adams threw a constitutional curveball with the Alien and Sedition Act, that Jefferson had nothing to do with separation of church and state, that Lincoln's famous address is questionable in some of its declarations, and the last war Congress approved was World War II. None of this I learned in school or college.
Coolidge was probably our best president; FDR proved time and again that he didn't have a clue about economics, and that no one today does either; not a single founder of our country would entertain the notion the first 10 words of the First Amendment had anything at all to do with the states; and ad nauseum. Nobody cares.
Ernest Hemingway is generally regarded as the best writer of American fiction during the 20th century. There is no one in central Pennsylvania who knows more about him and his four major novels than I do since Professor Philip Young of Penn State passed on years ago.
As a teacher I recall the 12th grade class when I was going on and on about Hemingway, all off the top of my head, and had an intensely exhilarating experience where I step outside my body and watch myself. Near the end of the period, a student raised his hand and said, "Mr. Beaver, nobody gives a ****."
If you do, the capital of Alaska is Juneau.
Wayne C. Beaver