Graduation was enough

 I wasn’t all that good a student in college. In fact, the intricacies of math and science pretty much eluded me in high school, so I was totally unprepared for college.

I was thinking about that as we were going through stuff, sorting out things that needed to go into the garage for a garage sale later this fall. In one box my mother had saved through the years, I found the letters I had written home from the University of Missouri during the 1960s.

Who knows why she saved them? It’s probably because, like most mothers, she thought I would be famous one day and she wanted to preserve my childhood for my biographers.

That didn’t happen, so I guess it is time to throw them out. 

Now, they are just a reminder that the rigorous classes our kids have to take today so they can get into a state university would have been pure torture for me.

By the time I got to high school, I was obsessed with journalism and debate and didn’t care about dissecting frogs or the Pythagorean Theorem. The only reason I can spell it is because I saw it in one of Joe’s math books.

Because no one in my family had been to college, I didn’t know what to expect. 

When I started to plan my class schedule, I was in shock. All of the journalism classes (the only thing I wanted to take) were for juniors and seniors. Freshmen and sophomores were expected to take other stuff.

Finding two years worth of class work that didn’t involve science or math was a real trick. At least one course was required to get into the journalism program.

I took Accounting 101 before I discovered it wouldn’t count as my math or science course requirement. 

Fortunately, I discovered psychology, which fulfilled the requirement without any of those tedious labs.

But I still spent much of my first two years explaining away lots of Cs.

In one letter, I bemoaned having to write nine single-spaced pages to answer a two-question political science test.

To get sympathy, I even included the test questions.

Mentioning often how hard I was working and how much homework I had was important. In those days, grades were mailed directly to parents.

My weekly letters had two other themes: asking for money or things, and trying to get permission for road trips. Typically, I asked for $20, which would last me two or three weeks.

Every two or three weekends my parents would come to see how I was doing.

In my letters, I would ask them to bring supplies – Band Roll-on, VO5 hair cream and boxes of Kleenex – as if they didn’t sell such things in Columbia, Mo.

In another letter, I asked if it would be OK for three friends and me to drive to New Orleans to see Missouri play football in the Sugar Bowl. Soon, I sent another letter saying I hoped they would say “yes” because I already had bought the tickets.

Reading those self-centered letters recently made me think how I would feel if I, as a parent, were getting those letters today. Probably a little steamed.

But my Mom and Dad never got upset. They were just proud I was getting the college education they never had a chance to get.

Perhaps that was enough.

 

T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at publisher@newalbanygazette.com.

About Chris Elkins

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