by David Safier
I always read Tom Danehy's column in the Weekly. No, Dan Gibson didn't tell me to say that. I used to read Tom before I wrote here. He's got a predictably enjoyable style and an unpredictable topic list. When I don't make it to the end, it's because I really, really don't care about his topic du jour, but that's the exception.
A column like this week's Tom talks about what really makes America great is the kind I read to the end, then go back and reread a few favorite paragraphs. Spoiler alert: It's a full-throated endorsement of our system of public education and what public schools did for him. No, it doesn't say everything's great, we don't need to change a thing. It just gives credit where credit is due.
My favorite part:
Willie Nelson's heroes might have always been cowboys. Mine have always been teachers and coaches. I'm not going to say that they saved me from a life of drugs, crime, and self-destruction. I was never headed in that direction. But they did push me when I needed pushing, they listened when I talked, and they talked well enough to make me want to listen.
There was my 6th-grade teacher, Mr. Carpenter, a man about whom I could write a book. Mr. Carpenter was so cool, he would have made Miles Davis feel like Urkel. He was proudly African-American way before anybody else. He had played pro football and occasionally sang with the Metropolitan Opera. He made these giant tapestries of Zulu warriors; each one sold for more than he would make in a year as a teacher. He lived in Bel-Air, right next to Vincent Price, but he taught elementary school in the ghetto out of a sense of duty. He taught me how to play chess and never let me win. When the other kids were being tested on the multiplication tables from one to 12, he asked me to multiply 18 times 17 in my head. He always pushed and I'm eternally grateful that he did.
Oh yeah, he wrangled some tickets and took me and some of my classmates to our first-ever concert—The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl.