I was really dumb when I was young. I opened my big mouth a few times in ways that still make me shudder. One day I arrived home from kindergarten with Dom DiSarro, the kid next door, and up the stairs onto our side-by-side front porches we strolled.
Mrs. DiSarro was standing there. She smiled at me and said, “So you’re the youngest of Mrs. Garrett’s four boys?”
“My! I’ll never understand how your mother can have four sons and still look so young.”
“Oh, no!” I said. “She’s not young! She’s forty-two!”
“Thanks, Tommy!” Mom said as she came out the front door.
Can you believe that?
Mom’s sister Mabel loved eating well, and she and Mom were always laughing together about it. So what did little 9-year-old Tommy say one morning when Aunt Mabel arrived for a visit?
“Here comes the hog!”
Can you imagine a kid that stupid? I still cringe when I think of that morning — and the tears it brought.
That incredibly stupid remark actually did me some good, thank God! I thought about it a lot; and by the time I was a teenager I had at last learned to make sure that my brain was in gear before I operated my mouth.
I actually became known as a quiet kid who didn’t say much — unless something really needed to be said. I’ve already told you that everybody in our high school knew what I told the Latin teacher one morning. “I really can’t see why anyone would want to learn a dead language that no one speaks anymore.”
But that was her fault, not mine! She embarrassed me in front of her class by trying to make me look ignorant and stupid because I wouldn’t drop science and take Latin. She forced me to speak my mind, so she got what she deserved. Right?
There was another time too. Our high school didn’t give letter grades — A, B, C, and so on. Instead, your report card showed your test average in each course, and 70% was passing.
However, my algebra II teacher created a grading system that awarded 100 points for participation in a class with no participation, 100 points for doing homework that wasn’t graded, and up to 100 points for your test average. Then the three were averaged. I was surprised when he called me in at the end of the first grading period, showed me my report card, and entered a 66%.
“You haven’t done any homework,” he told me.
I quite honestly told him that I really didn’t need homework, and that my 97% test average proved it. It did no good. Each grading period he called me in, gave me a 66%, and said I was going to fail the course. Each time he said it, I politely repeated what I had said.
The last time he called me in, however, I told him, “OK. Do it, and we’ll see about it.” And out of his classroom I stomped.
He gave me the 97% I had genuinely earned for the year.
Why? The big phony no doubt realized that I would take it up with the school board.
Consider this: If everyone automatically gets 200 free points for class work that doesn’t exist and homework that isn’t graded, someone with a 10% test average can pass the course.
100 + 100 + 10 = 210. Divide by 3 = 70%, a C.
Sometimes you just have to get up on your two hind legs and say what needs to be said.