HW: A Political Lesson

Their smiles are double-edged,
Posturing from the podium.
Contempt poised to slice.

Who’s your sneakiest teacher? Not your favorite, but the sneaky one who planted seeds in you that bloomed years later?

I was a fan of The West Wing, though the best reason eluded me at first. The writing was tight (hello, Mr. Sorkin), the acting was excellent, and the sets were fantastic, but I was drawn to the mechanisms of government. The whole three branches and checks-and-balances thing resonated. Dorky, yes, but I finally figured out that my interest could be traced to my junior high school social studies teacher.

Civics and social studies. We had classes in junior high (no stinking “middle school”) and high school, and Ms. Dugger’s class in high school was great fun. She was near retirement, I think, so she let us seniors run things. I don’t remember learning much. On the other hand, Mr. Troy’s American social studies and history class at Carson JHS is where I became a government nerd, though I didn’t know it at the time. His lessons came together years later when I watched President Bartlet and his administration.

I wish I could give you more specifics on Mr. Troy’s pedagogy (great word), but the one thing that sticks out is that he didn’t lecture as much as he guided questions at us. And we had to be prepared. For instance, the real reason the United States made the 1854 Gadsden Purchase with Mexico was to have the flat land at the south end of the Rockies for the railroads going west. Turns out we went through the Rockies instead of going around them, but we kept the land that became the southern ends of New Mexico and Arizona.

So how does this tie back to the haiku? Mr. Troy taught us about the government our elders wanted us to believe existed because that was his job, but he was clearly was a child of the Sixties. We picked up on his cynicism and sarcasm about the functioning of our government. Had he lived during the last administration, I suspect he would have reminded us that the mechanism of government works only when reasonable people agree to work towards a middle ground. There was no middle ground in the last administration, so here we are and here is the haiku.

As for technical notes, I resisted inserting bloodier language, though tempted. Probably a good idea, considering the events of January 6. I do hope that this vicious cycle of political theater passes soon. It’s not helping our country at all. Mr. Troy would have agreed.

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