Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Rethinking Lawns

                I’ve always had my doubts about lawns. My parents had a house built for them in the late 1950s. We moved into a house on bare red Oklahoma clay. My parents worked for years to turn that clay into a lawn. Eventually they had a beautiful Bermuda grass lawn that needed watering, mowing, and all the other chores that maintaining a lawn entail. Eventually, as my folks got older, they installed automatic sprinklers, which were high quality but, like the lawn, also required maintenance. I wondered what was the point of a lawn.
                When I moved back to Kansas City I had a guy mow my lawn. He had the equipment, and he was in and out of the yard in less than twenty minutes. Shortly after I moved into my current house I saw him toting a container of some sort to the back yard. I asked him what it was, and he said it was fertilizer. I said, “So you’re going to charge me to fertilize my lawn so it will grow faster and you can mow it more often?” I told him it was green enough. Nine years ago I fenced in the front yard and started a pollinator garden. Last year we decided to start another pollinator garden in the back yard with the hope getting rid of the grass. We’re getting there. Dan is managing the yard with a weed whacker, saving the weekly mowing costs. The yard is a hit with the neighbors, and more native/pollinator gardens are popping up in the neighborhood. We can’t claim credit for these, of course, but I think more people are questioning the effort and expense of lawns. And we’ve all heard of honeybee colony collapse disorder and the problems monarch butterflies are having finding milkweed, their only food source.
                So, think about the money you’re pouring into your lawn and consider whether you might like to keep more of it and have more time to spend on yourself or your family while doing something for the environment as well.
                It’s time to rethink lawns.

© 2018 Larry Roth

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Rod Dreher's "The Benedict Option"

                In response to my review of Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed, reader Sawbuck suggested I read Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option. So I did.
                On the plus side, Mr. Dreher’s book is the more well written of the two, and he’s for the most part intellectually honest about history, including the negative aspects of Christianity after Constantine when the church was recognized as Rome’s official religion and the persecuted became the persecutors. He also, unlike Dr. Deneen, does not rely on dog whistles. The thing he most emphatically does not approve of is anything that allows LGBT people any rights, unless they abide by rules he believes will allow them to sneak into heaven (but they’ll probably have to be discreet there, too). Believe me, we’ll go into this later. He’s almost as opposed to public schools as he is to LGBT rights.
                The Benedict Option is named after a young man who, near the turn of the sixth century left his hometown for Rome and, seeing the vice there, moved first to a nearby forest and then to a cave for three years, after which he founded twelve monasteries.
                Rod Dreher sees parallels to Rome in today’s society. For his brand of Christians (small “o” orthodox Christians) he sees removing themselves from society as a viable means of preserving orthodox Christianity and possibly making it attractive to those turned off by other brands of Christianity.
                He doesn’t advocate moving to a forest or a cave, but he does advocate that the orthodox form churches and then communities in and around those churches. He recommends living within walking distance of the church and forming tightknit self-policing communities. (He tells how one couple was excommunicated for getting a divorce after being married more than forty years—I guess marriage is, indeed a life sentence in orthodoxy). The orthodox should secede culturally from the mainstream, turn off the television, put the smartphone away, read books, play games, make music, feast with your (presumably orthodox) neighbors, start a church (or a group within your church), open a classical Christian school, plant a garden, participate in a local farmer’s (sic) market, etc.
                He criticizes consumerism and materialism, and he won’t get any argument from me there. He believes things have been going downhill since the fourteenth century, which would make me wonder how the Benedict Option could possibly stop a movement that is more than six hundred years old.
                He discusses how until the sexual revolution every culture had its “thou shalt nots” that were needed to restrain individual passions and direct them to socially beneficial ends. I suspect that as DNA analysis and genealogy research become more widespread, people are going to discover just how much of a myth that statement is. My own genealogy research revealed a tremendous amount of hanky panky in my family, and the results I got from 23 and Me had a bit of a surprise as well. In the days before television there just wasn’t much going on in small towns, and the towns were small, so our ancestors didn’t have to walk too far to find privacy. To paraphrase one of my German lessons, in theory everyone was chaste, but in practice… .
                Even though Mr. Dreher moved around in his career (before returning to his hometown after his sister’s death), he is not in favor of mobility. Unlike so many religious conservatives, he’s no fan of Donald Trump, describing him as “not a solution to the problem of America’s cultural decline, but a symptom of it.”  
                He claims a “corrosive anti-Christian philosophy” has taken over American public life. I don’t buy this. I live across the street from a mainline Protestant church. I have never seen anything that would indicate anyone wishes that church or its worshippers anything but the best. As I’ve discussed in a previous post, I became a lapsed Unitarian because in part that church was implicitly (if not explicitly) anti-Christian, even though many Unitarian churches in other parts of the country remain Christian. Perhaps there is the odd person here and there who objects to being wished a “Merry Christmas,” but I dare say they are few and far between. Besides, Christmas has become so commercialized that its raison d’etre seems almost to be an afterthought.
                He has positive views (in my opinion) of work. Don’t let it become your life. He suggests rediscovering the trades, which I think is an excellent idea. We’ll always need plumbers, carpenters, etc., whereas a lot of white collar work can be and is being farmed out to the cheapest bidders overseas. He advises that the orthodox prepare to be poorer and more marginalized. I think he’ll find the former a tough sell, and I find the latter a symptom of paranoia. Mr. Dreher lives in Louisiana, for heaven’s sake. How anti-Christian is Louisiana, anyway?

                OK. Now we’re going to get to what seems to have set Mr. Dreher off. The Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2015. As I said, there are no dog whistles here. It’s more like a fire alarm.
                As I’ve said before, gay marriage was not a frivolous “Oooooh, we want to have a wedding” issue. The issue was financial. Over the years our government gave benefits to married couples that were not available to people who were not married while restricting who could marry. These include Social Security Survivor benefits, favorable treatment of inherited assets, a lower tax table, etc. At one time it was estimated there were 1,100 benefits available to those who were married that were not available to those who were not. In short, gay people were being required to subsidize married people. I would think any objective person would be able to see this is unfair, and the Supreme Court eventually decided it did, indeed violate that pesky Fourteenth Amendment.
                My solution would have been to eliminate all benefits married couples had that unmarried people did not. Had this been the solution the government followed, there would never have been a need for gay marriage (and I suspect the number of heterosexual marriages would have gone into a precipitous decline as well). The current system is an improvement, but single people of all persuasions are still left out of the loop.
                As for the “religious liberty” laws and forcing people to provide services that violate their religions, I agree with Mr. Dreher up to a point. As long as it does not involve employment or housing, I believe anyone should be able to refuse business. If someone does not want to bake you a cake, do your floral arrangement, cater your wedding, take your photographs, etc., for heavens sake, find someone who appreciates your business. Do you really want someone who hates you for who you are anywhere near your wedding or especially anywhere near your food? On the other hand, it's only fair that gays have the right to spread the word and advocate that such businesses be boycotted. Caveat venditor, in other words.
                Mr. Dreher says the church must own up to its past mistreatment of gays, but his solution for gays is a bit of a conundrum. First of all, in spite of the Supreme Court’s decision, in Mr. Dreher’s world, gay Christians cannot get married. “Gay Christians, like all unmarried Christians, are called to a life of chastity. This is a heavy cross to bear, but one that cannot in obedience be refused.” I would like to see his biblical reference for that rule, and I’d certainly be interested if he can find any examples of Jesus saying such a thing. I’ve listened to many of Bart Ehrman’s Great Courses and read some of his work. The Bible was put together in the first century, and much of it may or may not be authentic. But if you’re a gay person and willing to live by Mr. Dreher’s rules, he says there is a Spiritual Friendship movement for those caught in this celibacy quandary.
                My solution would be if you’re in an organization that won’t accept you as you are, find another organization. After all, isn’t that what Mr. Dreher is recommending for himself and his fellow believers?

© 2018 Larry Roth

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Tale from the 1960s: My Younger Self Catches Up with Me.

                This post might not be of interest to some of my readers, so feel free to skip it if you’re not into stories about Baby Boomers in the 1960s. Or if you’ve heard too many such stories. This stuff was buried so deep I’d forgotten it, and, well, it is part of my life, so here goes.

                In March the University of Central Oklahoma, my alma mater, contacted me about some of my activities there in the 1960s. It seems they’re putting together an exhibit about the college during the Vietnam era. I promised to look for anything that might help. During this search I came upon my notes from the time. I was surprised I’d kept such detailed notes (I may have been anticipating a lawsuit), and I was surprised I still had the notes. And it was a good thing for the exhibit I’d kept the notes because not too many people involved are still alive. I’d forgotten so much of what happened. It was like meeting my younger self all over again. When I went to UCO, it was Central State College. That’s how I remember it, and that’s how I’m going to refer to it.

                First, the setting. When I went to Central State I was the product of the Oklahoma City school system. I went to Northwest Classen, one of the best schools in the system at the time (Elizabeth Warren was in my graduating class). Our education was good, but it was limited.
                We were born shortly after World War II—the “good war.” Our parents for the most part had been involved in the war effort—either fighting it or supporting it at home. My parents worked for the Manhattan Project. We were taught our country was always right, and we believed it. We were taught to respect authority, and we did. We were laughably naïve. We were set up for disillusionment. The history we were taught was so sanitized that it was in college I first came across a reference to the Japanese internment camps. I couldn’t believe my country would do such a thing. I asked my father, and he said yes, it had happened thanks to Earl Warren. There were probably hundreds of things that had been sanitized from our history books! In Oklahoma we were taught Reconstruction was evil, which set me up to go slack jawed when I did graduate work at Ohio State and found that there was a whole different history taught in the north.
                At any rate, this sheltered naïve boy entered Central State in the fall of 1966. Neither they nor I were prepared!
                In 1967 I was still leaning toward supporting the Vietnam war. It was difficult because I saw many of my high school friends being drafted. Some didn’t come back. Others came back damaged. I still trusted that the country would not be in a war if there were not a good reason. After all, I respected authority, and our country was always right.
                Late that year Central State invited Ambassador Robert Strong to speak. I was grasping at straws to believe the war was justified. This speech was the tipping point. The Ambassador spent twenty minutes saying there were good reasons for us to be in the war, told some personal stories, none of which were relevant, and urged us to support the war so we could win in the “Asiatic” sense of the word. That speech resulted in my first letter to the Vista, the school paper, which was printed Dec. 7, 1967.
                A journalism student supposedly was in the Vista office when my letter came in and wrote a simultaneously published response. I guess there’s no law requiring a letter to be printed and waiting an issue or two to print a rebuttal, but it seems to be a custom.
                My next letter was about the evening class schedule. Amazingly, it elicited an immediate response from the administration. The first day of Christmas break I got the following letter at my parents’ house:
                Dear Mr. Roth:
                Please make an appointment to see me as soon as possible.
                This matter is important.
                It was from Joe C. Jackson, Dean of the College.

                So I made the appointment during the Christmas break, drove to Edmond (a 20-mile trip), and met with my soon-to-be nemesis.

                “You wanted to see me?”
                “Sit down, Mr. Roth.
                “As I recall, you had an article in the Vista.” As he was saying this, he pulled out a copy of the letter. Then he asked if this was true.
                “Yes, I wrote it.”
                “Don’t you think that’s fairly obvious?” By this point I was really pissed off. I’d taken time off from my Christmas break and wasted my time and gas for this?
                “Mr. Roth, I’ve been in charge of scheduling since before you were born. The schedule we have now has gotten us through many years without complaints from students. Do you think you know more than I do?”
                “About what?”
                “About scheduling.”
                “Perhaps not about scheduling, but I do know when something’s illogical, which the schedule is.”

                Poor Dean Joe. It became obvious to him he not was going to get the apology from the quivering subservient student he expected, so he began a sarcastic reading of the letter.

                “Never on Friday. Isn’t that cute?” (One of my points was that classes could be held on Friday.)
                I let him finish. It would have been rude to interrupt, and I enjoyed his making a fool of himself, even if I was the only witness to this performance.
                Finally, he said, “Mr. Roth, if you have any further complaints or problems, please come to me before writing the Vista.” I agreed.

At the beginning of 1968 I began working at the campus radio station eight hours a week. Max O. Davis was in charge of the station. In a way, the station was run like the college was. If Mr. Davis didn’t like a musical selection, he’d yank it off the turntable and break it. (This was in the days of vinyl records.) He tolerated no criticism.
                Taking a detour here, since I suppose the Statute of Limitations has passed, I’m going to confess I had a little fun with Mr. Davis. The station was ten watts. I asked a cousin in Sweden to write Mr. Davis saying she had heard him on her radio. He bit, and articles appeared in the Vista and the Daily Oklahoman.
                Anyway, back on track, that semester I was taking twenty hours and working eight. I’d decided I wanted to graduate ASAP, so I wanted to load up on as many classes as I could take in the summer. It turned out the summer school schedule was just as illogical as the evening schedule. Maybe it was even worse. Classes met each morning for a fifty-minute session and one afternoon a week for another fifty-minute session, thus preventing students who worked in the afternoons from attending classes. The school also held workshops in the afternoon. A student could not enroll in a class and a workshop without missing part of one or the other.
                I’d promised to go see Dean Joe before writing the Vista, so I did.

                “Sit down, Mr. Roth.”
                Thank you.”
                “Can I help you?”
                “Yes, I want to talk to you about your summer schedule. These classes in the afternoon prevent working students from attending summer school.”
                “I have always been of the opinion that students who work have no business in school.” (And no, I am not making that up.)
                “But some students have to work.”
                “They don’t have to go to school.”
                “But, ignoring the working students, a person cannot enroll in a workshop and a class. Wouldn’t it be better to have sixty-minute classes in the morning?”
                “Scheduling conflicts are my business as is scheduling. Yours is to come to school, make your grades, and graduate.”
                There was no point in further discussion. I simply said, “You told me to see you about any further complaints or problems I had.”
                “You’ve got problems, but you don’t need to see me about them.” (Nope. Not making that up, either.)
                So I started a petition. At the end of one day, I had more than 200 signatures from just passing it around in my classes. That summer schedule was definitely not popular.
                I wrote a letter to go with the petition and called Stan Hoig, the faculty advisor of the Vista, to see if he’d print the letter and the petition. He said he could see no reason not to. I told him I’d bring them the next day after my classes. I didn’t even get in the office. Mr. Hoig met me at the door.

                “Dean Jackson advised us not to print that.”
                “He said he answered any questions presented in it.”
                “The petition had not begun when I spoke to Dean Jackson.”
                “It’s his word against yours—you’re only a student, you know.”
                “I know.”

                That weekend I wrote a bunch of letters to newspapers and the Board of Regents. I never mailed them. When I reported for work at the radio station on Monday, Mr. Davis was waiting for me.
                “Come into my office.”
                I did as I was told.
                “This petition you’re fooling with… “
                “I proposed something similar only last week to Dr. Jackson.”
                “He turned me down just as he did you.”
                “Well, Larry, since you’re working at the station I’m in charge of, they think I put you up to it.”
                “Oh, brother.”
                “Yes, and last Friday I received several calls, one of which came from Dr. Godfrey. Dr. Godfrey reminded me he was president of this college and that he could still cut off funds for the station---Larry, a college is not a democracy. You’ve got to stop thinking you have as much say as everyone else about what goes on here.”
                “About the station?”
                “Dr. Godfrey said if you will stop passing the petition, he will forget it.”
                So I did.

                In retrospect I doubt that Mr. Davis had suggested any changes to anything, but I do believe he was told to put pressure on me to drop the petition. The eight hour a week job didn’t pay enough that threatening to fire me would have the desired effect, so making me think I would save the station by giving up on the petition was the better approach. It worked.
                I became involved in the Eugene McCarthy campaign and worked with them during the spring break. When I came back from that break the petition, the letters, and some other articles I’d written had been removed from my room. In retrospect, I suppose this seems like an inexcusable invasion of privacy, but at the time it didn’t seem particularly surprising. I was angry with myself for leaving the stuff in my dorm room.
                On May 9, 1968 the Vista printed an editorial saying total victory was the only solution in Vietnam. By this time the country was moving toward opposing the war. Walter Cronkite had made his opposition official in February 1968. I was still extremely bitter about the way I’d been treated when I suggested changing the summer school schedule. When I saw this editorial and one published in the same issue titled “Fair Criticism Welcome,” I snapped. I’d seen just how welcome criticism was, after all, and the “Total Victory” editorial contained errors (bay of Torkin, for example) and positions (no matter what the reason for the war, we should go after total victory) that showed little thought (in my opinion). And worse, the article proposed that Hitler could have won World War II had he just done a few things differently. I responded with a scorched earth letter that was printed May 16, 1968.
                The remainder of the semester was busy with finals, papers, etc. One of my teachers, Dorothy Mills, and I had become good friends during spring break when we were both working on Clean Gene’s campaign. She told me she’d nearly been fired for trying to pass an anti-war petition to other teachers.
                The next week Dr. Godfrey was the first to sign a pro-war petition.
                As the school year ended, the Student Senate, which was free to do its own will, voted to favor a statement saying, “Any person who is not in favor of U. S. involvement in Asia is not an American.”
                By then probably at least 40% of the public opposed the war. The Student Senate would have stripped citizenship from a good many Americans.
                The Student Senate elections for the year 1968-9, which took place in May, 1968 were some of the most interesting in the school’s history. Until that time fraternities had been in control of the student senate. For the first time a student ran against the fraternity students. The Greeks lost; Larry Spears won with an anti-administration platform.
                The next year promised to be interesting.
                That summer I suffered through the schedule and took as many classes as I could. As I was studying, several professors resigned publicly, calling for more student and faculty freedoms. The president’s only statement was something to the effect that the college was better off without them, which wasn’t true. All the PhDs in the psychology department were among those who left, leaving that department without accreditation.
                By the time Larry Spears became president of the Student Senate he’d joined a fraternity and urged everyone else to do so as well. We’d been betrayed. Independent students loathed him.
                I’d not been rehired at the radio station (Surprise!), so there was no reason not to take up the summer schedule crusade again, and without the job at the radio station, I had more time to put into the effort. Larry Spears held a discussion meeting in October, and I told my story at that meeting. Larry Spears promised to send some sort of letter to the Dean of the College. I sent my own letter to the Vista without alerting Stan Hoig in advance. It was printed October 29, 1968.
                Yep. I got another of those “Schedule a meeting. This is important.” Letters from Dean Joe. This time I ignored it. I knew just how important it was, and I figured he knew where to find me.
                In November the Dean of Men, Alvin Freiburger, held a meeting in the dorm lounge. When he opened for questions, I had a few.

                “Why are girls not allowed in our dorms?”
                “Because it is not proper.”
                “Why are dorm mothers allowed to roam halls* and enter rooms at random?”
                “So they can keep order.”
                “But what if the boys whose room they enter are undressed?”
                “You should always be prepared to have a lady in your room.”
                “Then why aren’t girls allowed in the dorm?”

                *I should explain the dorm rooms had no bathroom facilities. The bathroom facilities and showers were located in the middle of the building, which meant we had to get dressed to go to the bathroom. 

                The lounge roared with laughter. Others were encouraged to try to put the dean on the spot. The was the last such meeting the dean held.

                A few years after this meeting I lived at the Jones Graduate Tower at Ohio State, which was coed. There are good reasons for not having coed dorms!

                After the meeting with Dean Freiberger a friend of mine who worked in the dorm’s office told me he’d been in the office when someone from the administration called and said to spread the word that I was a communist. There was a joke in Oklahoma at the time that if you wanted to smear someone, you’d call them a communist or a homosexual. The administration chose the wrong one.
                The dorm had any number of blabbermouths who would take anything to the administration if given the chance, so I took advantage of them.

                “I hear someone thinks I’m a communist.”
                “I’d like my card back. Would you tell the person who took it to put it in my mailbox—no questions asked?”

                “I hear the administration thinks I’m a communist. Isn’t that rather egotistical?”
                What do they think a communist would come here for?”
                “To take over.”
                “To take over what?”

                It worked. Being a communist didn’t make it into any of my records, and I never had any problems getting the security clearances I’d need in the future.
                I wondered what kinds of mud would be thrown next. I considered transferring to the University of Oklahoma and even took a trip there. It was a different world. It was mighty tempting, but it would have taken two years to complete my degree there, and I only had two more semesters at Central State before I could graduate.
                About this time Oklahoma Representative C. H. Spearman (known not so affectionately as C&H), who represented Edmond, began a campaign to change the name of Central State College to Central State University. I believe this campaign was an attempt to embarrass Dewey Bartlett, the governor, who repeatedly vetoed the name change.
                While C&H’s latest campaign was raging I saw an ad in the Vista seeking writers for the Oklahoma Limited. I wrote and they bit. They asked for an article on Central State and gave me a two-week deadline. The article made page one of the Limited. I was never paid for the article.
                This article effectively ended the CSU campaign for a while. I thought, “Well, that’s that.” I was wrong.
                At 11 PM one night after the article appeared I got a call from Jim Taggart asking to meet with me. I didn’t know him, and I thought, “Uh-oh. Is this another of those ‘This is important’ meetings?” Jim was in the music department, so we met there.
                I think we were both a little cautious. We’d both had our run-ins with the administration.

                “Your article was very good.”
                “Thank you.”
                Was it all true.”
                “Do you really believe everything you wrote?”
                “Yes.” As I said this I was trying to remember the entire article to see if it was really that unbelievable.
                “Would you be interested in being active on campus?”
                “Yes.” Actually, I already considered myself active.
                “Good. I’m supervisor of the Afro-American Student Union.”
                That was interesting, but Jim was white, and I’m white, so I didn’t know where this was headed.
                “There are many of the blacks on campus who want to do something. They need a leader.”
                “Surely you don’t mean me.”
                “No, the whites need to do their own thing, and they need a leader—you. Perhaps the whites and blacks could work together.”
                “Dr. Taggart, that’s a good idea, but I’m just not the leading type.”
                “We’ll see. Anyway, something has to be done here. Why don’t you see if you can get some interested people together, and we’ll meet Wednesday night here at my office.”

                I agreed. I was also stunned. Someone wanted me to lead?
                I told my friends. That Wednesday morning in one of my classes I noticed a student sitting next to me with a stack of Xerox material. As I examined it more closely I saw it concerned one of the professors. I asked to see the material. The material was about Rene Mendoza, a professor from the Philippines who was being fired ostensibly because he was not “permanent,” that is because he was not a citizen. I asked the student how he felt about the matter. He said it was a “pile of crap.” I introduced myself and invited him to the meeting that evening. That’s how I met Terry Johnston. For better or for worse.
                Dr. Taggart invited the Afro-American Student Union to the meeting. From the outset they made it clear they would do their own thing. Jim proposed an off-campus newspaper.
                In March 1967, Directions, an off-campus newspaper, had been started. Its editor was expelled for her efforts. This was not ancient history, and I had only this semester, the summer semester, and eight weeks of student teaching to graduate. I was not thrilled with this suggestion.
                Jim explained times had changed (in two years?), that Central State had no right to take any action while the paper was off-campus and did not print libel. We agreed to think it over, but my mind was the only one that was not made up.
                Jim and Terry came to my dorm room Saturday for the hard sell. I agreed to help edit the paper. We agreed on the name Dialogue. I wanted to go with Dialog, but I was outvoted. Terry wrote an “application for distribution” to be given to the Dean of Students, Charles Richmond. My roommate also agreed to help edit the paper. We agreed to meet with Dean Richmond the next Monday.
                On Sunday I got a call from another person who’d read the article in the Oklahoma Limited.
                Before I go further, I need to point out not many people at Central State read this issue of the Oklahoma Limited because the papers, uh, disappeared from their campus distribution points soon after they were delivered.
                At any rate this caller wanted to set up a meeting at her house. This was how I met Sharon Humes. She was married and had a teenage son, and she was the grownup we needed.
                I told her about Dialogue, and she promised to come to the next meeting.
                We met with Dean Richmond, who was not only not surprised to see us but knew why we were there. It seems there were no secrets at Central State. He told us we could not distribute on campus but he had no control over what went on off campus. When we got his written reply, he said we couldn’t distribute off-campus, either. But it was too late. Issue number one was already printed. It was March 5, 1969.
                While all this was going on the Vista ran an editorial on the becoming a university issue. My response was printed March 6, 1969, just as Dialogue was being distributed off campus.
                The Vista took note of Dialogue on March 20, 1969. A letter responding to my response on the University issue was printed March 13, 1969.

                I knew Terry was more liberal than I was. I also knew Oklahoma was and is a conservative state, and that we should challenge but not offend our audience, and, should the administration decide to take some action against us, we’d need support from the state. We argued over this constantly. As I said before, Sharon was our grownup. She kept us together. My roommate’s parents were advised he should not be involved. I wasn’t surprised. Terry wanted to be editor-in-chief. The reason we’d decided on three editors was strength in numbers. We decided he would be editor-in-chief in practice, but not on the masthead.
                Dialogue immediately had a large vocal following. Terry thought we could depend on that following should something happen. I knew better, and we saw just how much we could count on their support when we put up a slate of candidates for student senate. We lost big time, but I guess we got some notice. John Rogers, the Oklahoma Secretary of State wrote the Vista. I responded as did some other letter writers.
                That summer I again dealt with the summer schedule. I also drove trucks delivering the evening newspapers to the carriers’ distribution sites in Oklahoma City. My parents engaged in magical thinking. They wanted me to go to college, but they didn’t want it to cost them anything, so I was a busy boy that summer.  Terry put together the summer issue with no input from, as far as I know, anybody. We assembled it at Sharon’s house the night of the first moon walk. I didn’t read the newsletter. Shame on me. Terry had put together a pretty radical issue, calling the police “fascist pigs,” and so on. I don’t have a copy of that one, but I was embarrassed.
                I was called out of class by one of the campus police. Mr. Gentry and I had a good relationship, which may sound unlikely, but I think he knew bullshit when he saw it or was asked to do it. In the past, he had told me if I was fair with him he’d be fair with me. He told me he was very disappointed with this issue. I explained the situation—I was working, taking the maximum load, and so on, and I’d been uninvolved in this issue. He said he understood that, but the issue was irresponsible, and my name was on it. He said he was glad for our reputation that the summer issue would not get the circulation a regular issue would. He wasn’t the only one who was glad about that. He also told me he’d been asked to do a background survey on me and found nothing. As I said, he knew bullshit when he was asked to do it.

                And speaking of bullshit… .

                A few weeks later I was relaxing after a hard day at work and at school. I was thinking that after that summer I would only have student teaching, and it would be kiss off, Central State. Then the phone rang.
                “Larry?” It was Sharon.
                “I just heard this. You’d better sit down. You and Terry have not been approved for student teaching. Are you there? Joe Walker, the director of Student Teaching quit over it. I’m going to have to let you go. Can you tell me how to reach Terry?”
                “No. I’ll try to call him later. Thanks, Sharon.”
                I spent a very long night deciding what to do.

                The next day I went to Joe Walker’s office. Only the secretaries were in. I said hello to one of them who asked if she could help me.
                “I’d like to know if I’ve been approved for student teaching.”
                “Well, the committee met yesterday, and I don’t have the list yet. Almost everyone was approved. What’s your name?”
                “Larry Roth.”
                “Sit down. Mr. Walker will be here soon. Are you sure you’re Larry? I mean, uh, I was expecting your hair to be longer and, uh, well, you look like any of the other students.”
                (I should explain that I never let my hair get long or failed to bathe. This was not a political statement so much as a personal issue. I didn’t find long hair comfortable—especially in the Oklahoma summers, and as for bathing, well, driving those trucks and tossing the paper bundles to the carriers was hot, sweaty work; enough said.)
                I saw that the poor secretary was ruffled, I sat down and assured her I was like any of the other students.
                Fortunately for her, Mr. Walker came in soon, and before he could get to his office, she announced, “Mr. Roth is here to see you, sir.”
                “I’ll see him now.”
                I went into Mr. Walker’s office. I could see disappointment on his face.
                “Mr. Walker, I’m sorry to hear you’re leaving. This school needs principled people.”
                “Larry, principled people are out of place here. That’s something I’ve just realized. I guess you never will.”
                “I hope you didn’t resign because of me.”
                “No, I didn’t. If it had been only you and Terry there would have been no need. You can fight your own battles. I resigned because the powers that be were trying to force me to approve some people who didn’t have the required grade average. The teaching profession is poor enough with those presently in it. Think what it would be with these extra substandard people in it. No. Don’t feel bad. You weren’t the cause.”
                “Now, whom should I confront with the fact I know about the decision?”
                “Let me see. You know, the joke’s on them. They weren’t going to tell you until it was too late for you to do anything—ah, Dr. Way, he should know. Let me call him. This will be a pleasure.”
                He phoned Harrison Way, the Education Chairman.
                “Dr. Way, Joe Walker here. I have a young man in my office who wants to know if he’s been approved for student teaching.”
                “I told him he’d be notified by mail in August. That doesn’t seem to go over too well with him.”
                “Larry Roth.”
                “You’ll see him now? Good. I’ll send him down.”
                He hung up and said, “Larry, you’ve got ‘em running already. The situation is yours. I guess it always was. Keep calling the shots. You know how.”
                “Thanks a lot, Mr. Walker.”

                Next stop, Harrison Way’s office.
                “I think you’re expecting me.”
                “Yes, sit down, Larry.”
                “Larry, how did you find out the day of the meeting what happened?”
                “Sharon called me.”
                “Who told her?”
                “I don’t know.”
                “Oh, come on now.”
                “I really don’t. Sharon apparently foresaw some trouble for the person and didn’t tell me.” I still don’t know who told Sharon.
                “Very well, then, uh, the Dean of the College, Joe Jackson, felt that you should be called to account for some of the views you expressed in Dialogue.”
                “They were un-teacherlike.”
                “Dr. Way, after this summer is over, I will have only my student teaching left to do. I have chosen teaching as my career. If this college prevents me from entering my chosen career, I’ll have no choice but to sue. The college will then be liable for the entire amount of money I would have made as a teacher. Is that clear?”
                “Uh, yes, uh, perhaps you’d better see Dean Jackson. After all, it was his idea.”

                Next stop was Dean Joe, who assured me I had nothing to worry about. It was just a “formality.” Dean Joe was uncharacteristically friendly.

                As I was writing this all these years later, it occurred to me that with Mr. Walker’s resigning because pressure was put on him to approve unqualified students to teach in the public schools while qualified students were being denied approval because they expressed “un-teacherlike” opinions, with the threat of a lawsuit that could cost the college (taxpayer) money, and with the governor being pissed at the school for wanting to become a university over his veto, this was a media frenzy just waiting to happen. I would imagine Dean Joe was told to diffuse the situation pronto, since, as Dr. Way had said, it was Dean Joe’s idea (and Dr. Way seemed perfectly willing to throw Dan Joe under the bus). I was in a better negotiating position than I realized!

                I also stopped to see Mr. Gentry (of the campus police), who became very angry about the situation. That evening I called Dr. Mills, who was happy to help, and I stopped by to see Miss Loraine Bell, a conservative teacher who, although we had political differences, seemed to like me. She gave me a lecture, but she too agreed to help.
                I suspect Dr. Way, after receiving calls from the conservative Miss Bell and the liberal Dr. Mills, did not know what to think.
                To be sure I had to go through a question and answer session as did Terry. We were admitted to the student teaching program without further ado. I took a tape recorder to my session. Only when I got home did I discover it hadn’t been working.
                I did my student teaching at Putnam City without radicalizing any students or burning down any buildings. In fact, I was asked to take over the classes I’d done student teaching in when the teacher’s wife had an operation. Pat Nichols took over as editor of Dialogue. I did not keep up with Dialogue after I left campus. I took a couple of graduate classes at Central State the summer of 1970. As I recall, the summer schedule had been changed to eliminate the afternoon sessions. At the time I graduated, there was a teacher glut, so jobs were hard to find. I did substitute teaching for much of the 1970-71 school year. I was hired to fill in for a teacher who had been hired to replace a counselor who was murdered at Taft Junior High. In June 1971 I left to begin a whole ‘nother career.

                One day I was at my local library here in Kansas City and saw a book by Terry C. Johnston. I wondered if it could be that Terry C. Johnston. It was. Terry went on to write 31 western American fiction novels. He died in 2001.
                Sharon evidently still lives in the Oklahoma City area.
                As I was preparing this summary I tried to track down Pat Nichols to see if he had copies of Dialogue from his tenure. I discovered he died in 2009.
                Jim Taggart left Central State for a job at Marshall University in Huntington, WV in 1970. He died in Columbus, Ohio in 2007.

                This has been an interesting trip down memory lane for me. I hadn’t thought about all this stuff in decades, and I was surprised to find I still had my notes from those years. There is no way I would have remembered this much detail without those notes. Looking back from a distance of nearly fifty years and realizing that I am now older than the college staff I dealt with were then, a few thoughts occurred to me. The first was so much of this conflict could have been avoided if both sides had treated each other with respect. I wasn’t asking for the moon when I asked Dean Joe to revise the summer schedule. By the way, the teachers who had to do the extra afternoon sessions hated the schedule as well. But, rather than saying he’d take a look at the schedule, Dean Joe expected the fact that he’d been doing the schedule for twenty years was supposed to be enough to preclude considering changing anything. I was a pain in the ass, but the idea of being “just a student” rankled me. The staff at Central State, after all, were public servants who were paid by taxpayers to make the college work in everyone’s interests. It was in the students’ interest that schedules be as user-friendly as possible, and those students were the reason Dean Joe and the rest of them had their cushy jobs.

                I’d like to think things are different now, but a couple of months ago I was at a meeting on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus, and a discussion broke out about the selection of a new provost. The discussion could have been held at Central State in the 1960s. Perhaps some things never change—only the people doing them.  

© 2018 Larry Roth