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Where have all the towers gone?

Amid all of the controversy over the future of Duluth public schools, I believe one important thing has been overlooked, which we will outline later.

Amid all of the controversy over the future of Duluth public schools, I believe one important thing has been overlooked, which we will outline later.

First, let me say I am no expert on education, as all of my teachers during my own school years in Duluth would readily attest, were any of them still alive. Still, we all go through 10, 12, 14, 16 (depending on when you drop out) or more years of education, and you pick a few things up along the way. You only hope they're cute.

But we were talking education. Most of us firmly believe that we had the best education possible and that schooling has declined since. My own education in Duluth public schools was way better than that received by later generations, and I blame men. Yes, men. Too many males have become teachers.

Until I got to high school (DOD, which stands for Dear Old Denfeld), almost my entire education was led by older, mainly unmarried, gray-haired, corseted, dress- and sensible shoe-wearing, smart women. And boy, could these women ever write well on the blackboard. Their blackboard penmanship -- even in cursive -- was perfect and the chalk never squeaked. Never.

Woman teachers also knew how to keep order in the classroom. They were what we used to call "strict." The first thing a pupil would ask when assigned a teacher for the next year was "is she strict?"

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Of course she was strict. In seventh grade, I saw a woman arithmetic teacher tear the shirt off an obstreperous boy's body as he sat at his desk cutting up. We were studying fractions at the time, and the boy went home with a fraction of a shirt.

There were quite a few male teachers in high school. Good, smart, men but somehow they didn't pack the wallop of female teachers -- especially the older, unmarried women who devoted their entire lives to education. Get this: In high school I had a woman American history teacher who looked exactly like George Washington! I had a woman homeroom teacher who resembled President William Howard Taft, only with a better moustache.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with the "red plan" for reconstructing and reconfiguring the Duluth school district, closing numerous schools and buying up the homes and hearths of people who live near schools.

In ruminating about these matters the other day, I suddenly realized that something is missing from the entire red plan: clock towers.

In all of these rebuilding schemes, not a single tower will be built, and the only active school remaining with a clock tower is DOD (Dear Old Denfeld, recall). In my own education, every schoolI attended had a tower, and I believe it explains the stationI achieved in life -- like the old Mobil filling station on 22nd Avenue West and Superior Street where I used to hang out, smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo.

Towers on schools command respect. They are symbols of academic striving and achievement. Education in America began to decline when they stopped putting clock towers on schools. Let's put towers into the red plan, and get serious about educating our children again. Oh, and we could also use a few more woman teachers who look like founding fathers.

E-mail Jim Heffernan at vheffernan@earthlink.net . For previous columns go to duluthnewstribune.com.

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