I say, too, with education, America needs to be putting a lot more focus on that and our schools have got to be really ramped up in terms of the funding that they are deserving. Teachers needed to be paid more... My brother, who I think is the best schoolteacher in the year, and here's a shout-out to all those third graders at Gladys Wood Elementary School, you get extra credit for watching the debate. "
-Gov. Sarah Palin, in the debate.
I went to Gladys Wood elementary when I was in the second grade, the year it opened and the year we all spent, like you, huddled around the crystal radio set listening enraptured to the endlessly broadcast speeches of freshman senator Joe Biden.
It was designed as an open-education school in a suburban neighborhood of Anchorage that was barely twenty years old. I recall the yellow ochre carpets, the folding walls, the run-around design, the black spruce forests behind the school, with branch forts we made that were perfect for endless missions against the imaginary Nazis.
Gladys Wood is where I learned to diagram english sentences, and, on occasion, complete them. I learned to spell "canoe," the hard way, by public failure in my first spelling bee. It was where I learned effective and accurate sex education in sixth grade, on a filmstrip, the clinical line drawings of the deed advancing to the next image with that particular "bing."
Gladys Wood Elementary was where I learned about the basic drive of American history, and the extraordinary promise of American equality and democracy. I learned about Washington and Lincoln, who really did place the national interest above their own. I learned about the drive for justice in America, the endless struggle to avail itself of its own promise.
And Gladys Wood was where I learned how America had once lead the fight to defeat the insatiable monstrosity of fascism. It was where I learned that Richard Nixon had betrayed the United States, that the Constitution of the United States that we were learning was being spit on by the President, by the Republican right wing, by a dictatorial vision of the Executive. It was where I learned that we were in bad war: I remember vividly Walter Cronkite reading the body counts coming in every night, our soldiers dying, our strategy of bombing and bombing cities and jungles and people solving absolutely nothing. It was where I organized for McGovern, because it was clear to even a seven year old that Richard Nixon was a terrible and destructive president.
Gladys Wood was where the beautiful Ms. Jackson, my favorite teacher, taught me about the beauty and power of art, and encouraged a lonely little kid to ask questions and speak up rather than accept it when little people get pushed around by bullies who just want to see how far they can go. Gladys Wood was where I learned science, about skepticism and investigation, and about the delicacy and interdependency of Nature.
It was where I learned about Alaska, about its own extraordinary promise, the essential equality of people on a rough Frontier, where Sourdoughs and Bush Pilots roamed impossible places with daring and freedom, precisely because their survival depended utterly on the embrace of the human community in the face of a great and indifferent nature. It was where I learned to love Alaska, the free, independent but progressive state that I knew before it sank into the moral swamp of crude.
Gladys Wood was also where someone stole my new yellow Schwin and frankly I'd still like it back. It was were I first argued with a Texan about oil (I won the argument but lost the war.) Gladys Wood was where I learned to spot my first recognized, pure bullshit in print: a claim on a little posted article in the laundromat that chlorine is not a pollutant because "in fact, it is used to purify
water systems!" I hear that same self-serving voice now, indifferent to truth, coming from you about the earth's climate.
So, Gov. Palin, can I call you Sarah? Sarah, you are a profound embarrassment to the State of Alaska and to the United States. You are a threat to the Republic. Keep Gladys Wood Elementary out of it. I do not appreciate your using my fine old elementary school to heap glory on yourself with your bogus and cynical comments on education. That little school is where I learned that in order to defend the United States that I love, to defend as a citizen the values of law and freedom and progress and democracy, I would have to fight politicians like you, the tools, the liars and the prideful ignorant, for the rest of my entire life.