On School

Last weekend Betty and I spent our Saturday and Sunday in a classroom for nine hour days to learn more about making movies. And we are taking a regular college class at Boise State on how to become film producers, this after having produced a film.

Sitting in the classroom, I thought about class and school. More than once in my life I vowed I was through with it. When Mrs. L made me sit in the corner for blacking M’s eye in the fifth grade and when Mr. N popped me on the ass with his special-made paddle with the holes drilled in it when he heard me use an expletive or when I got kicked out of high school for a day-and-a-half when I was a senior because I wouldn’t tuck my shirttail in, I swore I would blow off school as soon as I could.

It took me thirteen years to complete the requirements for my BS in Business Admin and more than once on that journey, I quit Arizona State University in disgust, cussing dumb professors who didn’t have a clue about the real world. Intermittently, I joined the Marine Corps, I got a job, I got married.

And after getting my MFA at 53, I said that was probably it. But it wasn’t, and here I am again, jamming up my life, hanging with kids young enough to be my grandchildren, learning from them about a life I never could have imagined back in 1965 when I escaped good old Casa Grande Union High School.

The essence of education is my ability to sponge up energy…creative and intellectual energy…from those I am around. Faculty, students, you name it, all have something I want, and I try to see if I can absorb it. Often I can’t articulate what it is I am after, like air, it’s just out there, waiting for me to inhale.

If I think back on it, I can see all kinds of things I’ve learned in life from the formal and semi-formal education process:
How to see Dick and Jane run, how to shoot a rifle, a shotgun, how to take the part of a clown in a Shakespeare play, how to use a compass, complete a balance sheet, use a dictionary, compose in Latin, read Italian, understand the relationship between hydrogen and helium, how to drive a tractor, how to throw a grenade, how to scan a line of poetry, how to judge the liberal nature of John Stewart Mill…on and on. Classes about how to bust up anti-war demonstrations and how to properly cuff an AWOL sailor, how to niche Chesty Puller into the mythology of the Marine Corps, how to set up a special interest political party, how to understand what causes the weather, how to write a good short story, how to artificially inseminate a cow. And now, learning about how to run a movie set, break down a script, shoot a scene, put together a proposal seeking half a million dollars so Betty and I can make another documentary film.

It makes me chuckle and then shudder when I compare that with grenade-throwing class. Standing in a hole at Camp Pendelton, the mist still hanging on the oak-crowned hills to the north, a grenade in the right hand, an instructor behind me. My heart pounding like an oil pump gone berserk. His words, not the least bit soothing. My worries; am I going to kill someone? Kill me?

Quite a range of things I’ve learned in school. And it isn’t over yet. I’ll still be swearing off classrooms when I’m ninety.

On a different subject, Betty and I are off to California for private screenings of our feature length documentary film, Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor. I will be blogging about the experience as we move through the next two weeks.