AttaBoy Joe had me at hello!

February15/ 2008

Attaboy Joe had me at hello:  I noted in that last column that Kid’s learning lamp has been ablaze recently.  What a wonderful wonderful experience that can be!  I hope you all know what it means and that yours burns bright too ….. OF COURSE it does.  You’re reading BobLeeSays !!!   Daddy decided to “do something about it” ….. uh oh.

Kid never really had a choice.  When she was knee-high Missus and Kid made “every Saturday morning” trips to the nearby public library.

NOTE:  To those of you of recent vintage, “a library” was like Google except it was a building with ladies going around saying “shuuuu”.  They were also good places to meet girls if “being literate” was one of your criteria.  College athletes use them for (1) getting out of the rain and (2) urination.

Little Kid would return with a stack of books as high as she was.  As she got taller so did the stack of books.  She would disappear into her room and devour them.  A neighbor of a young Holden Thorp’s from Fayetteville tells me Little Holden was “always down in his basement playing with his chemistry set”.   Kid’s room never blew up.  I’m not sure about the Thorps’ basement.

Later in “a faith-based alternative to public education” Kid met Mr King.  Mr. King was en fuego about history.  The Civil War was his specialty (he was a re-enactor!) but he was en fuego on any period ….. Greeks, Rome, Dark Ages, Colonial, Revolution, Civil, WWI & II even Korea, and Nam.  This was “a faith-based alternative school” so history was “what really happened” not a PC-sanitized version of “what shoulda happened or happened but lets not talk about it”.   Mr King’s 6th grade history would be college sophmore work today.

Mr King was a hands-on interactive teacher.  Projects were the order of the day.  We got a giant box of popsicle sticks from Michaels and Kid used them to build a Viking Dragon Ship, a Roman siege machine, a diorama of Jamestown and a Viet Cong tiger trap w/ real punji sticks .  OK ….. just kidding about the punji sticks.  Making sure you were paying attention.

Kid has, of course, retained an incredible amount of stuff she learned in those two years with THAT Mr Chips.

We chose the “public” route for High School because (1) we wanted Kid to develop the grit in her gizzard to maneuver the socio-cultural minefield that is “public education” today ….. (2) the high school she attended was controlled by a hands-on “old-school alumni organization” that kept the agenda-driven school admins from ruining it.  Her high school teachers ran the gamut of “doltish, lazy & uninspiring” ….. “OK” ….. and “quite good”.   The “best” was Ms Dumain.  

Ms Dumain was the quintessential teachers union liberal feminist poster gal EXCEPT she respected students who could hold their own in classroom debates.  No problemo for Kid.  To be fair Ms Dumain was married to a policeman so she wasn’t a total clueless ninny.  Kid aced it with Ms Dumain – a Ms Chips.

The highlight of Kid’s secondary years was “the letter bomb”.  Her senior year Kid was co-editor of the school paper.  Typical school paper ….. exposes on “cafeteria mystery meat” ….. “unfair” dress codes ….. and a fuzzy photo of what might be “the French teacher” and the “phys ed teacher” holding hands behind the auto mechanics building.  Same stuff we had 40 years ago.

For the March issue, they did a point/counter-point on Affirmative Action.   They flipped for who would take which side.   Kid got “it’s NOT a good thing”.   The two arguments ran side by side.  KABOOM!

Within 24 hours the principal received (1) a fax …. (2) two angry voice mails …. (3) a certified letter …. all from some goggle-eyed spittle spewing hairball from CHAPEL HILL.  Yep, straght from central casting.  A quite bland editorial exercise in a high school paper sent this flaming nutjob into deep space orbit.  What to do …. Oh, what to do ???

The principal intercomed the paper’s faculty advisor.  They brought Kid to “the office” to make sure she was not traumatized by this attack.   They showed her all the toxic letter bombs and asked Kid “will your parents be upset?”  

Kid’s confident reply became “the stuff of legend” ….. grinning proudly:  “Upset?  No sir.  My mom and dad might buy me a pony for this.”

Any lingering thought that Kid might have been purchased from a Ukrainian orphanage or found under a cabbage leaf were forever dispelled.   She’s OUR KID!joe1

Fast forward to Univ Missouri last semester.  Kid signed up for a “sounds interesting” elective – Geography of The Middle East taught by Dr. Joe Hobbs.

Several weeks into the semester, Kid tells me that on the first day Dr Hobbs told them  ….. “This is a very controversial subject with many strong opinions.  I have a strong opinion but hopefully you won’t know what mine is ….. and you will form your own.”

Be still my beating heart!  To paraphrase the country song …… “Joe, you had me at hello.”   

With yet another “A” in her permanent record, Kid still doesn’t know if Dr Hobbs is pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian but she sure learned a bunch about why The Middle East is such a Gordian Knot.  (NOTE:  Because of a mythology course she took three years ago, she also knows what “a Gordian Knot” is.)

Such an awesome academic attitude deserved that most rare of gifts – the totally unexpected compliment.   I got Joe Hobbs’ e-address and wrote him how much our daughter had enjoyed his class and how fortunate Mizzou is to have such a “real teacher” on its faculty.  I sent Dr Hobbs an “AttaBoy Joe”.

I also copied Mizzou Prez Gary Forsee to upgrade Dr Hobbs’ FB seats to 50 yd/line and include a parking pass.

Apparently college professors do not receive such attaboy notes too often.  He was very appreciative of my show of appreciation.  Kid, of course, was mortifiably embarrassed which is a father’s duty to perform periodically.

The awesome power of the Unexpected Compliment – send one today and feel that power.

Yes, I notified Erskine and Holden that I have found a “blue-chipper” if they need “a for-real modern day Mr Chips” around UNC ….. but, with BobLee as his agent, Joe won’t come cheap.


I bet/hope every learning institution in America still has at least 2-3 Mr. Kings, Ms Dumains and Joe Hobbs-types.  But the way our culture works it’s the hyperbolic radical nutjobs that are always getting the publicity.

When you do find “a Mr Chips” tell him/her “Attaboy Joe”.

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