Children need good parents, not surveillance
Stephens Sachs, junior, Clayton High School, Clayton, Mo.
Let's face it: television has gone downhill since we were kids. The generation that grew up on TV has seen its beloved mentor become degraded. WE used to have action shows, like G.I. Joe and He-Man; we has great daytime TV, like the Muppet Show or Bugs Bunny; and, whenever our parents felt that it was time for some wholesome educational television, we were assisted by the letter Q and the number 3, who brought Sesame Street into our homes each day.
Today, however, things are much different: the action is now on the local news, where grisly murders and burning buildings-complete with invasive, teary interviews with the families of the victims-are provided daily for our viewing enjoyment. By way of daytime TV, we have Geraldo and Jenny Jones (who fill our every need for lurid tales of Neo-Nazi Prostitutes and also much-touted interviews with Faye Resnick, Kato Kaelin and the other 15-minute celebrities of the O.J. Trial. The letter Q and the number 3 are still Sesame Street into our homes, but it looks like the two will have to manage in the future without Federal funding.
It is in response to this downward slide of American TV that the networks have proposed a simple solution: provoke a controversy over the issue of sex and violence on television, and suddenly a large number of people will begin watching again. The technique has been tried over and over again: 2 Live Crew was a virtual unknown before their violent lyrics were printed in newspapers, and Calvin Klein probably never sold more underwear than when he was condemned as a child pornographer. Is it any wonder, then, that every press release announcing "NYPD Blue" also announced its warning of strong language or that the daytime talk shows race to reach the absolute bottom of the barrel?
This is an election year, however, and candidates galore are seizing the opportunity to castigate the media as a source of poisonous immorality, forced down our children's throats and corrupting their innocent minds. Both sides of the aisle in Congress have joined (in "a bipartisan effort," as President Clinton is so fond of saying) to curb this stream of filth through the recent telecommunications bill: from now on, a "V-Chip" must be installed in televisions that can block out programs according to a rating system. Parents will be able to set the level of violence they want their kids to see and then remove the limit with a password for their personal watching. It sounds, on the surface, like a great idea -- it protects our corruptible children from dangerous television shows while leaving their already-corrupted parents as much sex and violence as they could possibly want to watch -- but on this issue, it seems that Clinton has forgotten his new mantra: government control is not the answer, and there is not a program to fit every problem.
The thesis of the V-Chip program is that parents, who up until recently have left the job of programming the VCR to their children, will learn to program their television to block out certain levels of a rating code established by the networks. These parents will keep their passwords fully secret from their children but will remember it forever -- at least if they want to be able to use their television normally again. Finally, the parents will remember to turn the protection back on after watching, as otherwise the V-Chip would do no more than make the television set an ounce or two heavier.
The V-Chip promises to place the remote control back in the hands of the parents, allowing them to regulate what their children watch. However, it offers only that: remote control. Parents who do not have the time or the energy to "watch over their children's shoulders" can instead mind their own business and leave the kids to their own devices, confident that the Big Brother inside the television can execute their will from afar. In this way, the V-Chip is like the ankle collars that paroled felons are forced to wear while under house arrest -- it restricts one's motion without forcing someone else to look after you -- but children (by and large) are not paroled felons, and they should not be treated as such.
America has some very strange ideas concerning child care. While it might be easier for parents to implant to microchip in their son or daughter's head and monitor their every act, as a society we would prefer that they talk to their kids once in a while. While it might be convenient to bug a room or place a video camera in a ceiling, we tend to think it better if the parent spent enough time at home to know what their child was doing. We tend to think of parents as more than policemen and prison wardens: their role is to become actively involved in raising children, not merely to set arbitrary rules and hire computers to enforce them. The Clintons ought to know this especially well -- if it takes a village to raise a child, a microchip will hardly do. There is, however, a solution. Parents must teach their children well -- they must impart to them values through direct involvement in their children's lives, not through cold electronic mandates. There's plenty of sex and violence to be found in movies, on the Internet, or on the streets -- shut off one forum, and another will spring open. The only real solution is for parents to teach their children to find such material as distasteful themselves as the parents do -- after all, parents were impressionable children once. Government can play a constructive role in people's lives, but is should not be a substitute for teaching values. The parents in the Moral Majority and others that push for such legislation have no doubt taught their children such values already; an electronic enforcer will not be a panacea for the rest of us
Meanwhile, it seems that such a V-Chip may not even be necessary. Out of our boring and insipid television, some bright stars have emerged: the Simpsons seem to attract viewers without crude language, and NBC's hit "Friends" is extremely popular despite its relative lack of sexual innuendo (the recent cover of Rolling Stone not-withstanding). Politicians can use their bully pulpit to create a demand for quality shows that buck the trend of immorality. Take away the demand for blood and guts and the networks will move on to something else. Us old-timers could then safely relax, know that the next generation's innocence will be preserved, and calmly lament the passing of days gone by.
You know, things just haven't been the same since we lost Jim Henson.
"Freedom" has meaning in more than one language
Stephens Sachs, junior, Clayton High School, Clayton, Mo.
You have to pity the French. Buffeted on all sides by the cross-cultural winds of a global economy, they struggle to protect their cultural identity from an onslaught of foreign, and mostly American, influences: American movies, American music, American produce, and -- possibly the most dangerous -- American words. U.S. English has infected France, as words without French equivalents (such as "le network") enter into standard French usage. In English, new words appear all the time, but the French refuse to stand idle as their cultural heritage disappears. To prevent the globalization of their language, the French government has forbidden the use of English in all official government documents. French civil servants who use words like "le cowboy" instead of convoluted French equivalents will be punished for their indiscretion.
The French are convinced they must intercede to save their language -- for centuries, they have had a special government-appointed organization, L'Academie Francaise, to decide exactly which are not. (It is believed that most of the French that is taught in high schools does not actually exist; several verb tenses, including the subjunctive, were invented by the Acadamie to increase the difficulty of the French language and to preserve the treasured ability of French people to sneer at tourists trying to order from a menu.) Thus far, the U.S. has not taken any steps to combat the insidious French influence (most likely due to laissez-faire attitudes), but fighting our battle for us, of course, is Arizona.
Thus far, Arizona has led the nation in wild-eyed nativism. Afraid that foreign influences were going to destroy America's English-speaking culture, the state passed an amendment to its constitution declaring English the official language of Arizona. In this, it is not unique -- 17 other states have declared English their official language -- but Arizona in 1988 surpassed even the French, by making it illegal for state employees to conduct official business in any language other than English. Had lists of exceptions not been added before the amendment became law, it would have prevented bilingual paramedics from talking to their patients or French teachers from speaking French in class.
For a sheltered state like Missouri the danger of cultural encroachment by another language does not seem impressive. Arizona, however, shares a border with Mexico and contains a large Spanish-speaking population. Just as there are English signs in Paris airports, many official services in Arizona had been bilingual to support residents who spoke only Spanish. Outraged that Arizona might be more diverse than they had expected, lobbying groups such as Arizonans for Official English started a campaign in 1987 to stop people from talking in languages Arizonans for Official English couldn't understand.
Before the voters approved the amendment by a 50.5% margin in 1988, Maria-Kelly Yniguez had spoken Spanish to Spanish- speaking victims of medical malpractice. When she was forbidden to do so, she sued to prevent the state from taking action against employees like her. A federal court then declared the obvious, that statutes designed to limit the right of state employees to speak and the right of non-English-speakers to hear violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. As Appeals Court Judge Stephen Reinhardt later wrote, "Under the article, the Arizona state universities would be barred from issuing diplomas in Latin, and judges performing weddings would be prohibited from saying `Mazel Tov' as part of the official marriage ceremony."
The state realized that defending the law would be a lost cause, and so it withdrew, not wanting to prolong the embarrassment any longer. However, the political action group, Arizonans for Official English, was so upset by the ruling that it appealed on its own. The group howled that unelected judges had overturned the will of the people of Arizona -- all 50.5% of them, a stunning mandate -- and rushed into court to keep its language pure, bringing the case into a Federal Court of Appeals, back to the District Court, up to Appeals again, and finally to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has devoted the time spent to the case to questions along the lines of "Who are You?" and "Why are you here?" Within the last few days, the Court has ruled that it would concern itself entirely with these questions and put off the larger question of the amendment's constitutionality until a later date, leaving the older rulings intact for now.
In a certain light, the whole incident appears downright silly. Arizonans for Official English argued that "chaos" would result from the decision, as bilingual state employees would claim a First Amendment right to speak in any language they chose, rattling off Spanish at will with no regard to whether their audience spoke it or not. Malicious state clerks would grin at helpless customers struggling through a Drivers' Exam written in Mandarin Chinese or ancient Urdu. Of course, this is nonsense: a state has the right to insist on effective government services, but here is no reason to stop its employees from furthering that goal by speaking in a language that the citizens can understand. These services were offered in a variety of languages because they were exactly that -- services. They existed to support state residents, allowing them to apply for food stamps and drivers' licenses, business permits and disability benefits, regardless of their language. They existed to grant them the equal protection that the 14th Amendment guarantees, to address the needs of Spanish-speaking residents and enable them to function in society.
"But shouldn't these people have to learn English?" cried its supporters. That's absolutely right -- and they do. Public facilities in Arizona were not expected to provide services for speakers of every language under the sun. It would be unreasonable to expect every state clerk to be able to answer calls in Hindi or Hungarian -- or even Spanish. Arizona, however, had tried to prevent state employees, even if they were bilingual, from speaking in the language that their audience best understood. Residents who could understand would be left in the cold, and the state workers who can understand their every word would be powerless to help them.
It is at this point that the amusement begins to fade. What is so dangerous about a state clerk who knows Spanish talking Spanish to a client? To the lobbyists, it is absolutely necessary for "protecting public democracy" in government, "protecting democracy," and safeguarding "unity and political stability" -- but if citizens speak many languages, is anarchy the inevitable result? Maybe this is true -- even Canada seems to be having trouble holding onto Quebec -- but I doubt that erecting language barriers and denying services to immigrants is the solution.
Many recent reforms have targeted immigrants. Congress cut their welfare benefits, and the new immigration bill deprives them of several basic rights. This may be because a cost-cutting nation finds those who live here but cannot vote an easy target, but it seems to be representative of a vindictiveness in our politics, a willingness to find benefits for me by yanking the social safety net out from under the next guy. When the discussion turns to illegal immigrants, the rhetoric is extremely harsh -- Dole toyed with the idea of kicking their kids out of school, and California wants to deny them prenatal care. In difficult times, there is always a tendency to blame the foreigner. Yet we live in a diverse society, and we cannot always make it conform to our social expectations. Like the French, we face the problems of unexpected diversity; punishing those who speak differently is not the answer.
The Boy in The Corner
All Richard Singleton wants is to be accepted
Brett Hooton, sophomore, Grandview High School, Grandview, Mo.
Reporter's Note: The term "tic" is used in the following article. Tics are the main symptoms that characterize Tourette's Syndrome. In its simplest form, a tic can be described as an uncontrollable urge that eventually has to be expressed. To a person with Tourette's the feeling may be similar to having to sneeze. Tics can be extremely disruptive, but they cannot be helped.
He tics. "Damn." He jumps nearly out of his seat. Another tic. A cough, a shout -- both tics. A grunt echoes over the noise of the crowded room. Tic.
Richard Singleton sits in the end desk of a circle of chairs. He strains, cusses and twitches almost rhythmically. He is hunched over a single piece of paper that has been transformed into a war zone.
In this war zone is a nearly finished poem. One word left...Writing tic...Three words left. He bears down and grits his teeth. Done. A sigh marks the end of his struggle.
Richard Singleton has Tourette's Syndrome. And everyday he gets out of bed he goes to war with himself.
He wakes up just like anyone else. But as soon as his bare feet hit the carpet, he loses control over most of his life. His room itself is a constant reminder of some of his most punishing tics. The walls are painted with scratches and nicks and scrapes. A dent in one wall and a gaping hole diagonal to it are his souvenirs.
Each morning Richard walks through the doors of Grandview High School and into a world of misunderstanding and fear. But each day he carries the hope that maybe today someone new will accept him.
"I'm going to make something of my life and I'm going to make something of me. And I hope to, not necessarily make something of other people, but at least point them in the right direction." Richard smiles.
Walking through the crowded halls, Richard looks like any other Grandview sophomore. Tall and lanky, he steps like a giant around the smaller people he passes. Between steps he stumbles over his own feet, then jumps like a startled cat. Both tics.
His clothes dangle on his extended frame. His autumn brown hair has become tangled from his fingers being run through it. Richard's feet pound the floor with another tic. His scratched and worn tennis shoes seem to flail by themselves. He turns into an open door and the day has begun.
Richard is one of the first people in the nearly empty classroom. he kicks the stool of his corner desk. Tic or frustration? It is hard to tell. But as Richard stands cussing at himself, the first problem of the day walks towards him.
"I may have to deal with some jerks and some people like that because of the racist tics that I say. But at least I know how to handle it. I am a person too. I do see myself as pretty normal. I just do things a little differently," Richard says.
A student about his size begins to push Richard into the corner. After each blow he mocks, "Oh sorry, tic." Richard does not back down, but makes no attempt at retaliation. He simply stares his tormentor straight in the eyes and asks him to stop.
But the teasing only gets worse. And for the first time Richard's face shows some irritation. He opens his mouth to say something, but the bell rings instead.
Now sitting alone in the corner, Richard tries to concentrate on the teacher's instructions. But he begins to twitch and fidget...straining to maintain control.
But the tics come. He cusses loud enough for the girl sitting in the far corner to look up. "Sorry, it's a tic," Richard quickly corrects himself.
Silence returns to the now full classroom and then is quickly shattered again by Richard's next vocal tic. The rest of the hour follows this pattern. It eventually reaches the point when there are no longer any reactions to his shouts.
"I actually outcast myself sometimes just for the benefit of other people and also for the benefit of me. I do this to keep the kids from getting angry or the teacher from getting angry with me and so I don't get angry with them or myself," Richard explains.
As everyone in the room packs up their notebooks and pencils, Richard sits alone in the corner. He grimaces with effort to finish a single line. The bell rings.
Richard guesses that just during a single school day he tics between 350 and 400 times. People are not able to understand why he cusses, says racial slurs or makes sexual references. But Richard is helpless to his urges.
Richard rumbles down the hall to his next class. He is alone, but smiles and says hello to nearly everyone he passes.
"To the selfish people, the wrong people I call them, if you don't walk their walk or talk their talk, then you are just not cool. Just because you are different, doesn't mean you have to be treated differently," Richard says.
But frustration still hangs on his face as he enters his next classroom. Richard takes his seat again in the corner. He is surrounded by three empty desks. He sits silently and stares out the open door.
The class is told to get out their work and Richard battles his notebook. He pounds it with his fist and cusses at the binder. But really, it is his tics that keep him from succeeding at this simple task. He thrusts himself back in frustration. This will be a difficult hour.
In surrender, Richard hands his paper to another student to take notes. He smiles in appreciation at this person who nods her acceptance. There always seems to be one person willing to understand. But Richard wishes it could be the opposite: One person not understanding and everyone else grinning in acceptance.
Now with nothing to do Richard's face becomes worried. He leans back in his chair and rubs a simple, silver cross that he is wearing. It hangs from his neck by a dogtag chain down over his heart. Richard has turned to God in the toughest times of his life.
"I think God put me on this earth to help those people in need and to encourage those people. To basically be a leader. Not necessarily to become a president or start some kind of movement, but just to kind of be my own leader. A leader for those people who have Tourette's or who are struggling." He continues.
"I think God is everything in this world that's not perfect, but if you look at the opposite side could be. He is everything in this world that makes it what it is."
Richard tics. He shouts a song that echoes in the empty hallway. After a pause for the class's laughter, the teacher begins to read another student's poem. Richard blushes, but turns his attention to the teacher and what she is reading. While he is concentrating he doesn't tic a single time. He hears every word.
The poem being read is very emotional and Richard is fascinated by its meaning. He relates to every idea it is trying to express.
"Tourette's definitely has its advantages. It opens your eyes a little more. Some people with Tourette's think they are the only ones with problems in the world. I don't really feel sorry for them because that's what they want, for people to feel sorry for them and care for their every need."
As the last word is read, the room is in awe. After a moment of perfect stillness, someone begins to clap enthusiastically. It is Richard. This is not a tic, it is admiration and respect. But no one joins in his effort. He sighs and looks down at the floor. "Man...I'm always alone," he says just barely above a whisper. The bell rings.
This is what it is like to be Richard Singleton. He says he has no control over nearly any part of his day to day life. And when he does, it is ignored just like one of his tics. But that is what his peers are told: just ignore him and he will settle down. But in uncertainty, they just ignore him altogether.
Richard stands up to leave, but he tics and stumbles into the hall. Before his eyes, a path is formed in the tightly packed people. Everyone has moved away from him.
"I should feel lucky that I only have Tourette's. Because I have met kids who are autistic and have Tourette's. And I just think, wait until this kid gets to be 13 or 14 years old and he has to deal with all these other jerks in the world, that won't accept people like him."
Richard moves into a tiny room that is not yet full of students. Before sitting down in his seat, he tosses his folder up, slaps his chest and then plucks it out of midair. A tic. He settles into his end seat and waits for the room to fill.
Within a minute the room is bursting with people. Richard is fumbling with a book as one last student trickles in. The student wedges his way between the crammed desks. As he slides past Richard he grins an evil smile and begins to pound his chest like an ape.
"Please stop it," Richard says as he looks up from his book. The student does it again.
Richard becomes edgy. "It's not funny, please quit it."
The student bangs his chest again and this time adds sounds.
Richard almost leaps out of his seat. "Look, you don't make me tic for your own personal enjoyment."
But this is where the confrontation stops. The teacher enters and the room becomes calm again. Richard turns to sit down, then tics. He pounds his chest imitating an ape. The other student just laughs.
Richard attempts to explain. "I like to look at that part of people in a positive way. I like to see it as they want to become my friend, but they are not really sure how. They find getting me to tic is the best way to bond with me. They would like to know how or maybe they are afraid to ask me or maybe they aren't good at that sort of thing. But I think they want to be my friend and just don't know how."
Richard has regained control and starts on his reading assignment. He overshadows the tiny book beneath him. Both hands push the book against the tabletop, as if it might run away if he lets go. He begins to scribble furiously on a raggedly torn piece of paper next to him. Writing tic. He forces the words out. "I need to get this done."
Even though his life may sometimes be a struggle, Richard sees everyday as a personal victory. This is the first year since 1994 that Richard has been back at school all day.
Eighth grade for Richard was "a time of suicide and depression." During this time his tics became violent towards himself. He was somersaulting constantly. It became so bad that his parents had to physically escort him from school. The tics were soon so harmful that Richard says that he was afraid to get out of bed.
But Richard says with help from his family, counselor and God, he has fought his way back to a normal life.
"If I know that I just believe in myself and believe in God, I'll be fine. I'll make it in this world. As long as I go out everyday and wake up every morning with a glad heart and smile, then nothing will stand in my way," Richard explains.
He says that he has made his own belief that he will succeed in a world he sees as "cold." He says the world has made people bitter.
"The world just needs a blanket, a patchwork quilt of love, joy and happiness with a little bit of everything positive sewn into it." Richard chuckles at his simplicity.
But when the day is over, so are his battles. Richard does not tic in his sleep. He goes into his room and blasts his stereo. This is his escape. Here he tries not to think about the new battles the next day will bring.
As he stares at the ceiling, one last thought passes through his mind.
"I've learned to look into people's hearts. There is always something that gets them or breaks their heart or makes they happy or makes they cry, and that is their soft spot. Everyone has something like that. They could be accepting if they really, really wanted to be," Richard says drowsily.
Then Richard rolls over, closes his eyes and falls asleep.
A Closer Look: Ending the Many Myths about Tourettes
Brett Hooton, sophomore, Grandview High School, Grandview, Mo.
According to the National Institutes of Health, there are currently 100,000 Americans who have full-blown Tourette's Syndrome, but because many people are not diagnosed, there are no absolute figures.
Tourette's Syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by "tics." To receive a diagnosis of Tourette's Syndrome a person must exhibit both motor and one or more vocal tics in a period of a year, but not necessarily at the same time. The symptoms of Tourette's usually begin between the ages of two and fifteen, and usually start around age seven.
Tics are defined as small, inappropriate, involuntary, compulsive jerking or twitching movements that are uncontrollable and appear to be erratic in pattern. Tics last only briefly, but may occur often. Also, tics are often set off by stressful events or situations. There are three forms of tics: motor, phonic or vocal, and sensory.
Neurologists distinguish simple motor tics from complex motor tics that require more muscles and coordination.
Simple motor tics commonly involve small muscle movements including: facial movements, shoulders shrugs, neck jerks or bodily twitches.
Complex motor tics may often include touching oneself or other people, jumping, hitting or throwing things.
Vocal or phonic tics are the making of sounds, which may include grunts, coughs, sniffs, throat clearing, animal noises or understandable words. The words may be repetition of the person's own words or palilalia. They can also be repetition of words spoken to the person or echolalia. Or the words can be obscene or offensive, this is called coprolalia.
Sensory tics are unusual sensations of pressure, cold, warmth, tickling or other common sensations. These sensations are usually felt for a brief period of time then disappear.
Associated with Tourette's Syndrome are a number of other conditions including obsessive-compulsive behavior, attention-deficit disorder, hyperactivity, school phobias, test anxiety, conduct disorders, depression, dyslexia, poor socialization skills and low self-esteem. The number and severity of symptoms tend to rise and fall, and are commonly at their worst during adolescence. Symptoms then tend to lessen after the age of nineteen when the body begins to stop changing. The disorder is not psychological, but some patients develop emotional problems trying to deal with it.
Certain drugs can help relieve symptoms of Tourette's, but often have side effects of sedation, depression and weight gain. For the patients of Tourette's syndrome there is no cure, only a hope for understanding.
Arrange the pieces that come your way
Brett Hooton, sophomore, Grandview, High School, Grandview, Mo.
A figure lays in a tightly curled ball on the cold, tile floor. A crimson blanket covers a broken, bleeding, sobbing face. And above the pounding of hundreds of feet running, the terrifying cry echoes down the hallway... "teacher down, teacher down."
That day is etched in the memory of both Grandview High School students and teachers alike. Because at that moment, when Linda Garofano looked up from her horror, a part of us fell to the floor.
On that day in 1993, just like any other in her two years at the high school, reading teacher Linda Garfano pushed her way through a crowded hallway. But this time, at that fateful moment when she walked in between a small group of students, she lost a part of herself.
Unaware a fight was brewing between a group of three boys, as she walked by she simply said, "Okay guys, get to class." Suddenly the fight erupted. Garofano was hit...she was knocked to their ground...her eye was bleeding...the paramedics came...and then later that night in the hospital she was delivered a much more horrific blow. Her eye was destroyed. It would have to be removed and an artificial eye implanted in its place.
Now, three years later, she sits at the corner table in a small restaurant. No scars are visible on her smiling face. Her professional attire is flawless down to the press in her collar. She takes off her glasses and wipes them with a handkerchief. She takes a long look at her surroundings and carefully thinks about what she is going to say. As she begins to talk, the aura that only comes from a survivor's courage fills the air.
"I wasn't breaking up a fight," she said wanting to be completely understood. "After first hour I was walking across the hallway and three boys were standing in kind of a triangle. I knew all of them. I wasn't afraid.
"I said, `Go to class, guys,' " a blankness to her voice. "I didn't know a fight was about about to brew."
"One of the boys said, `Let's go.' My first thought was he's going to class." She shrugs. "At that very moment he hit me."
Lost in the chaos of the crowded hallway, the fight proceeded.
"It threw me clear across the hallway and I landed in the doorway of my classroom." Her face remains taut.
"I thought, I wished, I hoped it was blood coming down in front of my eye because I couldn't see." She gazes across the room. "I had always been terrified of losing my sight," she says quietly.
Lying on the floor, twisted in the confusion of the hallway, there was no way for her to know her life had changed forever.
"I'm afraid of violence," she says in a dark tone. "I would have never broken up a fight."
"I've often wondered if he meant to hit me."
She looks down at the table and back up again. "I have never heard from any of the three boys again. That's a real source of sadness to me."
"I was a nutcase all night long in the hospital. I was scared to death. I was afraid of what my life would be like."
She grips her hand into a fist. "It was so useless, so unproductive. It's a stupid senseless violence. If those kids had made other choices that day, I would have two eyes."
The next morning in the hospital was the first time since the previous morning that she saw her two children.
"My children are from my bones and my heart. I thought I knew what love was until I had a baby. I looked at my daughter and said, `Come over here and give me a hug. I can still be your mommy with only one eye. I'll just have to keep a closer eye on you.' " She laughs. "That first corny pun gave me a sense that I was still there. A part of me said, look, they only took your eye, they didn't take you."
"Sure there were a lot of tears." Her voice grows solemn after the quick upbeatness. "Nights when I couldn't sleep. I would have nightmares where I relived that moment again and again. I cried in my sleep.
Nevertheless, she is a survivor and her words and philosophy seem to aptly symbolize a framed saying on her office wall, `Arrange whatever pieces come your way.'
"I think there are random things that happen in this world. It is up to the integrity or the spiritual power of the individual to figure out a way to work with it."
"I don't think it happened for a reason. I don't believe in a God that decided Linda Garofano should be blind," she says firmly and directly.
An individual who knows the world seems to be built on the idea of chance, Garofano believes no one has a head start when they are born. Life is a journey of acting and reacting to whatever is dealt. The only control people have is over what they do with the lives they are given.
"Over the course of a year, I went from bewildered, to furious, to scared to death," she says taking a shortcut to describe her long and difficult road to recovery.
"When you adapt to something life-altering, at first you are in shock and denial. You don't even know how it will affect you."
"Then there is fear. I was afraid of crowds. I was afraid to drive. I couldn't even stand the crowd at church."
But she knew a fear that keeps you from your life is a weakness. If she wanted to go on, she had to keep moving.
"I try to accommodate and honor that fear," she says. "I'm not ashamed of it. At the high school, I still can't do a crowded hallway. I have to push myself."
She pauses before talking of the next step, obviously the steepest one.
"Then I was furious. The anger, the cold, vile anger." She makes another fist. "It was some sort of evil thing in me when I was experiencing that. I was so resentful that someone could do that to me for no reason. I didn't like that feeling."
She's calmer now. "I don't dwell on it anymore though. My anger isn't hurting me, that has subsided," she says with sigh of relief.
After the anger came a period of adjustment and finally a sense of acceptance and a moving on.
"After you really work through all of those feelings, it's good to move on. I really believe you have to work through those stages of grief or they will come back to haunt you at some point. Time will usually be the biggest healer."
Linda admits though that she couldn't have done it alone. Support from her husband, her family, a personal counselor, the community, and the care and generosity of thousands of strangers, all doing whatever they could to soften the traumatic blow, were her salvation.
"I experienced the worst of human behavior and the best of human behavior in the same split second." She demonstrates the quickness with simultaneous snap of her fingers.
"I learned how much people's kindness can mean," she says softly, "there is so much power in kindness."
Today, Linda Garofano is back in the classroom halftime, only now on the elementary level, and the other half of the day she does public relations for the school district.
"It's strange because three years ago what happened to me was a public relations nightmare for the District. Now I'm in charge of getting the good news out. I love what I'm doing because I do believe in children and in this school district regardless of anything that has happened. This is my small way of giving back to a community that was there for me every step of the way."
But why didn't she return to teaching at the high school full time?
She says for a year she was bombarded with different emotions about returning to the job she had loved so. "After it happened I thought maybe I would go back right away. But every time a new quarter came I was in some stage of recovery that didn't allow me to feel strong enough to go back."
However when the time was right she showed her overwhelming trust in the school district and her love of the community that had been so supportive by returning the following year. Some portion of the fear however, never subsides so her decision to come back to work with elementary students instead of high school students was a part of her recovery.
And whether teaching children in tiny desks or larger ones, she still sees one of her primary missions in life is to motivate children.
"Teachers are not just robots, they respond to kindness or being treated in a dignified way. The same with children of all ages. Teachers are just humans and there are interpersonal relationships that form between a teacher and her students. I try to tell my kids that this is their job. Getting along on a human level is a part of that job."
But what about the violence in today's schools? As a statistic of this epidemic what does she think can be done?
She takes a sip of her coffee. "I think people have gotten angry over the years," she sighs. "What I worry about is that children aren't being parented. They aren't being nurtured and loved, and they are growing up so angry and resentful. I think our society has to make changes and protect them more than we do now."
And even though she has been a victim of that anger, she refuses to dwell on it.
The bottom line is life forces you to endure. It is your choice to sprint ahead, keep a pace, or get dragged behind. So, she made her choice...to sprint ahead.
And in the end when she looks back, what does she want to see in the panorama of her life?
"I have three college degrees that aren't that big of a deal. I have 25 years as a teacher, again not a big deal. But if I have given integrity or reassurance to students, to their values as human beings and in their lives," she grins that signature smile. "That's what I want."
And although sometimes a certain course of events may change a person's exterior, it can never change who they are. Hearts don't change, they only recognize what was already there.
So like the saying on her wall, Linda Garofano has arranged the pieces that have come her way. She insists on focusing on the positive, not the negative.
"You know, every time I see something beautiful, I am aware of what a gift it is to be able to see."
Recycling: City's waste program trashed
Stephanie Bleyer, junior, Beachwood High School, Beachwood, Ohio
©1996 The Beachcomber
The City of Beachwood, which last year was rocked by a scandal involving contractors and city officials, may be facing another embarrassment, this time over its waste recycling program.
Although residents have been told their trash is sorted and recycled, it apparently is being dumped into a landfill, an investigation by The Beachcomber has disclosed.
Jim Bowman, general manager of the Northern Ohio Waste Transfer/Recycling station in Oakwood, a subsidiary of Mid-American Waste, Inc., has told The Beachcomber that the city's rubbish, hauled by one of his competitors, does not go through the sorting process at his plant, but directly into the landfill.
Bowman leases a part of his landfill in Solon to Global Waste, which underbid him for the city's waste removal contract with the city, which suggests that partial recycling will be done, Bowman insists it is not happening at his facility.
"Why would I let a competitor in here to recycle when I could do it myself?" he said. "As far as any recycling, that's between Global Waste and the city of Beachwood. I don't want to get involved."
According to Kevin Parks, managing director of Global Waste, Beachwood's contract does not guarantee that the garbage will be sorted or recycled. Parks said they "will try," if time permits. His lease with Mid-American Waste, he said, includes use of the recycling facility as well as the landfill.
Beachwood's contract "is unique because there is the possibility of sorting and recycling, but it is not guaranteed," Parks explained.
The city, he said, receives a lower price than the `guaranteed recycling' contracts, but one that is higher than the `transfer-directly-to-landfill' contracts.
Since it is impossible to know where each community's rubbish goes once it is emptied onto the waste station's floor, he said the city is better off to pay the lower price, given this uncertainty.
Confronted with the situation, Mayor Merle Gorden said he thought the city had contracted for recycling.
"It was the city council's understanding that Beachwood's waste stream was being recycled to the maximum extent permitted by current technology," the mayor said in a statement to The Beachcomber. "In fact, it was the city's understanding that the Mid-American waste disposal facility at which the recycling takes place is a model of its type."
The mayor concedes that the city doesn't know whether "any limitations at the facility or by a dispute between Global Waste Co. and Mid-American, which had previously provided the city's waste disposal."
Mid-American Waste maintains that because it does not have a contract with the city to sort its recylcables, all Beachwood rubbish has been buried deep within a lindfill since August, 1995. But that wasn't always the case. In 1992, with the nation facing a solid waste disposal crisis, Beachwood officials decided on a more serious approach to recycling.
In an effort to have residents increase the amount of recyclables, the city council contracted with Mid-American Waste, which has a transfer/recycling station, to separate and recycle solid wastes.
In the spring of 1992 a letter to the community from then Mayor Harvey Friedman included alarming statistics about the amount of waste Ohioans generate.
The astounding figures were accompanied by recycling guidelines for residents in accordance with the city's new program.
These guidelines, public announcements and frequent references to the transfer/recycling station in the city's newsletters to the community led Beachwood citizens to believe that the new program included sorting and recycling.
Under its original contract with Mid-American Waste, Beachwood's rubbish was transported to the company's transfer/recycling station. There, through manual and automated separation procedures, newspaper, corrugated cardboard, glass, aluminum, ferrous metals and plastic were sorted out from the solid waste stream. The remaining rubbish was then transferred to a landfill in Solon.
When that contract expired last year, the city advertised for bids for a new and more economically feasible service. The advertisement specified that the "bidder shall have the ability to recycle waste at a disposal facility" in an effort to "limit waste sent to landfills."
It did not require the bidder to recycle waste, but rather to have the ability to sort and recycle waste.
Among the bidders were Mid-American Waste, which, in its new bid, guaranteed that all of Beachwood's trash would be sorted and recycled at its transfer/recycling station. The bid clearly stated that the company "will process all garbage and rubbish."
Another bid came from Global Waste that contacts with Mid-American's subsidiary transfer station and landfill to dump waste there. Global's bid read, "It is difficult to show every load that a generator delivered to the city is actually recycled," but that the recycling station "does recycle as much as the facility will handle each and every day."
Global Waste proceeded to offer the landfill option which was an "alternative bid that will offer a cost savings to the city, but will not meet the need to recycle."
Simply put, Global Waste, serving as the middle-man, could contract with Beachwood to send rubbish to Mid-American's subsidiary transfer/recycling station, but could not guarantee that once inside the station sorting and recycling would occur.
The only definite aspect of the bid was that the waste would end up in a landfill.
In August, 1995, Beachwood contracted with Global Waste. The contract mentioned that the facility has the ability to recycle.
According to Bowman at Mid-American Waste, its contract with Global Waste does not include the sorting and recycling option.
Bowman explained that last year the 4,872.3 tons of trash collected from Beachwood residents were transported through the station and directly to the landfill.
The garbage loads, he said, were deposited onto the station's floor, and if there were large quantities of recycling goods, such as quantities of corrugated boxes tied together, they were picked out and recycled.
These few recyclables were sold for reprocessing, and the remaining tightly-compacted waste was transported to a landfill.
Despite the contradictory statements from the two waste management companies, the mayor insists, "The city remains fully committed to recycling to the maximum extent feasible."
Beachwood's recycling system in need of tune-up
Stephanie Bleyer, junior, Beachwood High School, Beachwood, Ohio
Ambiguous, vague and over-embellished explanations of Beachood's recycling system have led residents to infer that their garbage is transported to a state-of-the art facility, where recyclables are separated from the trash both automatically and by hand.
The latter part is true of the $12,250,000 Mid-American Waste, Inc. facility in Oakwood Village. It is equipped with two complete municipal solid waste recycling lines and one commercial corrugated paper recycling line handling up to 1,500 tons of solid waste daily.
If the company's contract included a recycling component, this equipment would be used for sorting trash.
One-third of Cuyahoga County's 59 municipalities use a recycling system similar to that of Beachwood. The other two-thirds use curbside recycling. Together they recycle 30 percent of all the country's residential trash, surpassing the country's goal of 25 percent.
The Cleveland Planning Commission was responsible for preparing the county recycling goal in its 10-year solid waste plan. By the year 2000 it is striving for a 50 percent recycling rate, up from 25 percent in 1994. At this rate, whether Beachwood is helping to reach that goal is questionable.
In a letter to Beachwood city officials, Kevin Parks, managing director of Global Waste, Inc. wrote, "If the city were to start a blue bag (residents separating recyclables) recycling program... (Beachwood) would then meet the specifications (in city council's 1995 bid advertisement) because recyclables would no longer be in the waste stream."
According to the Cleveland Planning Commission and BioCycle Magazine, an environmental action publication, curbside recycling has proved to be the most reliable and effective method because of high participation rates and recyclables that are clean and marketable.
They maintain that contaminated recyclables sorted out of trash lower the overall quality of the finished manufactured product.
Dale Pekarek, Beachwood's assistant service director, believes curbside recycling would not be feasible or convenient for Beachwood residents. A varying degree of commitment would exist, he said, if residents had to separate their trash and drag additional bins to the ends of their driveways.
The city also would need a higher sanitation department budget than the $339,000 currently allocated in order to pay for more trucks and labor. The department claims that voluntary programs are not as successful as a mandatory system such as Beachwood's.
Solon residents can dispute this reasoning. With a strong 75 percent participation and 11 to 20 percent recycling rate, they have drawn international acclaim for their curbside recycling program.
Some other feasible alternatives that Beachwood can consider are:
* Continuing to collect "co-mingled" rubbish, but separating out paper before pick-up.
* Curbside pick-up which relies on residents to separate recyclables in bins and set them on their driveways.
* Returning recyclables to drop-off centers.
For now Mayor Merle Gorden says the city "will continue to seek to obtain more information of the current status of the (throw-away) program."
Students bash trash system
Stephanie Bleyer, junior, Beachwood High School, Beachwood,Ohio
While Beachwood Mayor Merle Gorden maintains the city is committed to a recycling program, students in the BHS Ecology Club and their adviser, Joe Burwell, think the irony is that the city is committed to doing a bare minimum.
Club members, aware of a Beachcomber investigation into the recycling program, expressed exasperation with the city leading residents to believe that it was recycling their trash when it apparently was not.
"Someone should have known," said senior Ayelet Weissmann.
"The city has broken its trust with citizens," added senior Jean Dietz. "In a corporation everytime there is a change, you negotiate with the new people. That should have been done in this matter."
Another senior, Robin Marling, was skeptical of the recycling process itself. Citing that some of it reportedly was done by hand at a recycling station, she said, "I think it's a pretty lousy job; who'd want to do it. And it's so inefficient."
Burwell took a different slant on the matter, pointing out that the city hasa a moral and legal obligation.
"The law says we must reduce the solid waste stream, and each community should recognize its moral obligation to extendthe life of its landfull thrugh recycling," he said. "Why look at recycling as unfeasible or a money-loser when nearly every service a city provides costs its taxpayers money."
Burwell went on to list such city services as garbage hauling, street salting crosswalks and plowing, painting crosswalks, police and fire protection and street paving.
"It's a nonsensical, narrow view," he said, "None of these is a profit-maker, so why would we look at recycling this way?"
More than one resident has viewed the city's recycling efforts and wondered whether the trash wasn't simply being dumped in a landfill. When neighboring communities all ask residents to separate their recyclables, why hasn't Beachwood done the same, some question.
"I've been into recycling," said one resident who asked not to be identified. "It's so easy to do it right just by using two separate containers, one provided by the city marked for bottles and cans and the other for garbage.
"What you don't want is nondegradable refuse mixed in with the recyclables."
And what Ecology Club members and residents want is assurance that the city really has a recycling program that works.
City cleans up act with blue-bag recycling program
Stephanie Bleyer, junior, Beachwood High School, Beachwood, Ohio
Driveways may look a little more cluttered these days. Stating Nov. 11, residents become participants in the city's new recycling program called "blue-bagging."
A semi-advanced system used coast to coast, the recycling program basically calls for residents to place all recyclables such as cans (steel and aluminum), glass (brown, green and clear) and plastic (milk jugs, pop bottles, detergent holders) into a 30-gallon blue bag.
The city embarked on the blue-bag program after an investigative report by The Beachcomber in its Oct. 1 issue disclosed that the city's trash was not being recycled as both residents and city council had been led to believe.In the new program the bags are collected on the residents' regular rubbish pickup day and are then transferred Cleveland Ecology in East Cleveland, where they are sorted mechanically and manually.
The facility uses conveyer belts, blowers and throwing machines to separate the plastics, aluminum, steel and three types of glass. Each of the items are then transported to their respective manufacturer such as Anheiser Bush for aluminum cans and LTV Steel for steel cans.
The manufacturers, in turn, will transform Beachwood's recyclables into such items as carpeting and ski jackets from pop bottles from green glass.So for the educational dimension of the program will entail presentations at Bryden, Fairmount and Hilltop Schools given by the BHS Ecology Club and members of Beachwood City Council.
One free blue bag will be distributed to each student together with guidelines for recycling. Residents may pick up a free bag as well as purchase a 100-bag supply for $7 at the Beachwood Recreation Department.
The program's success is dependent on the commitment of residents to separate recyclables. While the city doesn't expect 100 percent of its residents to participate immediately, higher the success rate.
Beachwood joins such suburbs as Lakewood, South Euclid and Fairview Park in using the Cleveland Ecology recycling facility which has been in business for seven years. Anyone interested in a tour of this facility may call 541-6880.
Tips for recyclingOnly leave filled blue bags for collection. Half-filled bags are a waste of bags and collection time.
Throw away all lids unless you are sure it is recyclable. Flatten plastic bottles and pop cans to make more space in the bag.
Flatten plastic bottles and pop cans to make more space in the bag.
Do not smash glass; broken glass will be discarded by the recycling facility.
Labels don't need to be removed.
Do not place any paper in blue bags. Contact Ohio Waste Systems to find the nearest paper drop-off.
Do not drag the bag to the curb because it may tear.
Do not place recyclables in the street.
Spread the word; start a trend on your street with blue bags.
BHS debates wage increase
Stephanie Bleyer, junior, Beachwood High School, Beachwood, Ohio
Sixty years of the National Recovery Agency's (NRA) minimum wages is under major scrutiny on Capitol Hill. On Thursday, May 23, the House of Representatives finished debate over a bill calling for an increased minimum wage and passed it with a vote of 281-144. The bill is now scheduled to move to the Oval Office.
Sponsored by the Democratic Party, this bill, if signed by the President, will raise the minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.15 per hour, and will be installed in two payment increases over the next two years. It also sets a lower wage of $4.25 for those employed under the age of 20, for the first three months of the employees' training work.
The majority of those "minor" employees subjugated to a three-month waiting period are high school teenagers working at local retail stores, movie theaters and fast food chains.
An estimated on-third of the BHS student body works part-time at area businesses. One of them is sophomore, Kim Cantrall, who works as a life guard and is elated about the news of a possible increase to her minimum wage.
"I'll feel so much more important...right now I feel like I am less qualified than those who earn more than me just because they have worked longer," she said.
Senior Brian Block is very sympathetic toward adults who support their families on a minimum wage, 9 to 5 job. In terms of the wage increase effect on teenage employees, Block is apathetic. He feels that it is more important that kids learn the responsibilities of having a job no matter what they may earn.
Even if the minimum wage is increased, will it affect student employees, and will it initiate an influx of students looking for jobs flipping burgers and tearing ticket stubs? According to sophomore working-girl Erin Hall, "an extra 90 cents per hour will certainly not create a stream of teenage over-employment."
The last 90-cent minimum wage increase was in 1989, and because of inflation, $4.25 in 1989 may equal $5.15 in 1996. Therefore, to adhere to the national economic pattern, when minimum wages are raised, the cost of living will go up.
Art teacher Alan Scott points out that "to keep in pace with inflation, and with the emphasis put on service-oriented jobs, a wage increase is vital for families trying to support their families."
Its effects on teenagers "should initially have a negative impact on their job search as companies reduce their regular number of employees in exchange for higher wages," Scott added.
Throughout the debates over this bill, President Clinton has warned the Republican Congress that he will use his veto power if it insists on adding an amendment exempting small businesses from wage increases.
In lieu of his veto the Republicans conceived an amendment that would give small businesses tax breaks worth $7 billion over the next eight years, (originally an item in the Republican Contract with America).
Among the 281 supporters of the wage increase bill was Beachwood's Representative Steven LaTourette, who also co-sponsored a Republican wage increase plan.
Day in the life of high school referee
Lou Kohl, senior, Albert Lea High School, Albert Lea, Minn.
On Dec. 10 at 5:15 p.m. Dean Monke and his partner arrive at Southwest Junior High in street clothes, ready to referee. They are in Albert Lea to officiate Varsity and B-squad girls games between Winnona and Albert Lea. Hangers bearing zebra suits and their accompanying black ensembles are slug over their shoulders clear plastic bags. But this is not the beginning of their day, it started an hour ago when they left Faribault.
Dean Monke impressively stands six feet and a couple of inches tall. He looks like an athlete not an old, overweight, greying 60-year-old man most stereotype as the typical referee. His blonde hair gives him a youthful appearance at 38. His thin black-rimmed glasses are in stark contrast to his athletic physique. Although well built, he still conveys that all around Minnesota nice.
Q: Why do you referee basketball? "You better enjoy it because you're not making millions," Monke said. "I like the game and it's good exercise."
His partner, Mark Sybilrud, added that he wants to stay around the game.The referees saunter into the men's locker room to suit up. Off come the street clothes, and on go the trademark black and white striped shirts and black pants. They are all smiles, but soon these to will be replaced by their game faces. Over the stripes goes the black satin jacket. Completely clad in black from head to toe, shoes, socks and even glasses, Monke begins to stretch.
Q: Do you have any special pregame rituals?
"Just get dressed and stretch out the old bones so you don't hurt yourself," Monke said.
The two referees chat and go over their paychecks which total $67.50 for their efforts this night. They have two games and over three hours of basketball ahead of them tonight. They still seem to be loose and a good mood.Dean uses the facilities and his partner comments on his prowess as a referee.
Q: Is Dean a good referee?
"Oh yeah, we got critiqued during our first or second game and the evaluator recommended us for the state tournament," Sybilrud said.
Monke returns to the room and jokingly remarks about his friend. The referees make a final check of their equipment and head out on the floor. All joking is now over, it is time to get serious. The referees take their position on the far side of the floor facing the benches. One on each side of the floor, hands clasped behind their back. No smiles or frowns could be seen on their faces, only seriousness as they stared into the parents' section. They stand for 15 minutes.
Q: What exactly are you doing standing here?
"We count heads to make sure there aren't any extra players. If there were we would have to give out technicals," Monke said. Other than that we aren't doing anything, just staying loose before the game."
The captains are called so the referees can give them some last minute instructions. They shake hands and it's game time. Players are introduced, the crowd cheers, they line up for the toss. Monke steps to the center of the court with the ball behind his back. He flips the ball above the girls heads to start the game. He backs up and finds his position behind the play.
As the play rages on in front of him he is tense in concentration. Slightly crouched, he looks intently from the ball to the other players on the court. As his head swivels, his right hand is perpetually waving by his side, fluidly counting by threes, fives and 10's. His left hand is tensely tucked by his side, ready to blow the whistle that hangs from his neck.
Midway through the first quarter he makes his first call and the crowd erupts. It's a traveling call against the Tigers.
"Nuts and Bolts, we got screwed," the fans chant.
Adam Benson was one of the fans heckling the referees call.
Q: Why did you yell at the referee?
"He didn't know the call, my grandma could've made that call and she's blind," Benson said.
The game continued slowly in the first half as both teams struggled to score. The gym was practically deserted with about 40 students sparsely populating one side of the gym while about the same number of parents and adults huddled in one gym while about the same number of parents and adults huddled in one corner of the opposite bleachers. Directly above the Winnona bench 15-20 members of the Winnona B-Squad sat and watched silently. After every call individual voices yelling at the refs could be heard.
The sparse crowd was in an uproar after every call against Albert Lea. "That was clean. No way," the few scattered fans yelled.
The buzzer sounds, the whistle blows. Halftime. Into their locker rooms go the teams and the referees. As they hide out they go for a quick drink of water, then plop down on the benches.
Q: Do you pay any attention to the fans?
"I don't care if they criticize me, I don't take it personally." Monke said.
Q: Do you like reffing a game with a large crowd or a small crowd better?
"It's worse to have to few people because you can hear individual people," Monke said. "With a large crowd it's just a buzz."
The referees chatted about the first half and the strengths and weaknesses of the teams for a few minutes. A man came in and informed them that there were three minutes of halftime remaining.
"Let's go out and try to ref a game," Monke said to Sybilrud jokingly.
The second half is similar to the first half. Yelling when the referee made a call against Albert Lea even though the Tigers had the game under control by now. The same fans that were also complimenting him when he made a call for the Tigers. Occasionally the coaches could be heard, loudly disagreeing with the calls. After an Albert Lea player had been fouled and knocked down Albert Lea coach Neil Chalmers yelled "We have to fall down to get a call?" with his arms raised in the air.
Q: Do you usually yell at the referees?
"It depends on how competitive a game it is, I don't want the referees to decide the game. They will hear from me," Chalmers said.
Midway through the second half fickle fans were out for blood. Senior Mary Kuiters knocked a member of the opposing team to the ground and was called for a foul. Most of the students and a few parents cheered. "Way to go Mary, kill her."
The final buzzer sounded, about 40 die hard fans and parents remained. The Tigers won 41-28 but the players and fans weren't satisfied. Captain Jenny Holmen was incensed with the referees' performances.
Q: What did you think of the referees performance?
"Bad, he didn't let us play," said Holmen. "You couldn't even touch anyone."
The referees retreated to the locker rooms. They were getting ready to shower after some hard work.
Q: How would you rate your performance?
"We made some mistakes," Monke admitted. "But there were a lot of fouls so it was hard to know how many to call."
Many fouls had been called during the game. Winnona coach Mark Winter referred to the game as a "hackfest." Monke commented about his ideal game.
"I would rather ref a game with two very good teams because they play much more cleanly," Monke said. "Both these teams played extremely hard and were good."
The thing that all interviewed agreed upon was the response to the question, "Would you like to be out there doing the reffing" No. "I would definitely not want to be doing the job."
The gym is empty. The referees are done for the night. It's about 10 p.m. Monke still has a hour of driving ahead of him. So goes the life of a referee.
"Don't quit your day job." Sybilrud said to Monke.
No dumb jocks: ALHS athletes earn an A+
Lou Kohl, senior, Albert Lea High School, Albert Lea, Minn.
The myth has been dispelled at ALHS, dumb jocks are dumb no more. No longer do jocks at Albert Lea High School slide by with a passing grade in school.
The numbers speak for themselves. During the winter sports season students at ALHS that participated in a sport had a grade-point average nearly half a point higher than people not participating in winter sports, 3.105 for athletes and 2.661 for non-athletes. Of the winter sports girls B-squad basketball had the highest GPA, 3.7, and seven of the ten sports had a GPA of over 3.1.
"This doesn't surprise me," athletic director Brain Espe said. "As a group people involved in extracurricular activities are good at scheduling and making time."
In the last two years sports at ALHS have won five state academic championships. In the fall of 1994 the football team won the state championships, and that spring baseball completed a year that would make most schools proud for 10 years.
"I think we win more more academic championships than other schools because we care more about our grades," senior James Gonzales, member of the state champion football and baseball teams, said.
This fall, for the second year in a row the football team won the Section IAA academic title with a 3.58 GPA. The biggest winner of the season was the girls' soccer team, which captured the fifth academic state championship in two years for ALHS. The teams eighteen varsity players had a combined GPA of 3.865.
"We had an idea we could win it." senior Tracy Dickerman said, "but we didn't think we were as smart as some of the Cities teams."
Just recently the Tigers hockey team topped their second place finish in section on the ice by winning the section championship in the classroom. They finished the season with a team GPA of 3.67 which was best in the section and second in the state.
Academic state championship patches have become more common than flannel shirts in the past two years as athletes at ALHS have compiled a large collection of trophies and banners to showcase their academic success.
"Academics and athletics go hand in hand. I think people who are motivated, hard working and set goals do well in school whether they've involved in sports or theater," head football coach Chris Chalmers said.
Albert Lea has had a Section 1 champion for the AAA (Academics, Athletics, and Arts) Award the past two years: Chris Rorvick in 1994-95 and Maggie Thorn in 1995-96. The award is given yearly to students who are active in all three of the A's, one male and one female from each school. Two winners of each section go on to the state competition where they compete for college scholarships.
"I think the AAA award is a great award that encompasses all phases of school, two Albert Lea student have represented section 1AA for the past two years which speaks well of ALHS," said Espe.
Espe indicated it was a national trend that athletes are consistently performing better in school than other students. Athletes will no longer be called dumb, dense or stupid at ALHS. Most of those interviewed perceived that athletes had a definite advantage in the classroom because of their on field experience. It seems that the best way to boost your grades at ALHS is to join a sports team.
"I think being in athletics helps you in school because you learn how to manage your time. If you're in sports you have to set aside time to do certain things such as homework." junior Marcus Ludtke said.