THE PARENT FILES: History Repeating itself (again)(sort of)

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Some of you know a little about my past, in particular, how I graduated high school only because my math teacher, instead of failing me, was kind enough to give me a D, which allowed me to avoid repeating my senior year.  I suspect she was pressured by the school district superintendent to improve my final grade so that I would not return to high school.

Such pressure wasn’t personal – I wasn’t a behavioral problem. I was taught never to embarrass my family, which meant never getting caught, and I always made sure that any mischief for which I was responsible could be backed up with plausible deniability.

So it wasn’t personal. My teachers and their superiors hardly knew I was there.  But my illiteracy was a problem that could only be solved with time and distance.  There is a de facto practice in American k -12 education commonly referred to as “passing the trash’ – i.e., moving academic failures through and out of the system to make room for others who might do better, and upon whose coincidental achievement administrators could claim responsibility and point to as proof that they were doing a good job.

I was one of those who could not be used to ensure job security, so, as a purely pragmatic alternative, I was allowed to graduate high school.

But I did not go on to university. My guidance counselor, Dean Rothy, told me bluntly and often that I was not “college material.” There were probably hundreds in my senior class like me, and untold thousands over the years. Like me, they were unsuited for university because, like me, they could barely read and write and needed the fingers on both hands to accomplish simple math calculations.

My long-absent father appeared and offered me an alternative. He offered me the chance to accompany him as he drove from Amsterdam through Europe and the Middle East (he lived and worked in Saudi Arabia, and would pay for his trip by selling the car once he arrived back in Dhahran), to be left on the Jordanian/Israeli boarder to then make my way wherever I wanted for as long as I could afford to stay.

I jumped at the chance. I stayed seven month, primarily in Europe.

That alternative – the opportunity my father provided – was the first in a series of events that ultimately lead to community college where I learned how to read and write (math still escapes me), to university, to law school where I met my wife, to a home and family and now a son who has graduated high school and on his way to attend university in Montana.

Even before my son was born, I resolved to travel with my son, or daughter, as my father once traveled with me – even if for a shorter time.  I arranged such a trip, but my son could not go with me because of unforeseen and unplanned for pre-university examinations. So I cancelled his plane ticket and cut my trip short, returning when my lecture tour was finished.

Now, those exams are over. At the end of August my wife and I will be loading up our van with my son’s stuff and driving across the Rockies to move my son into his dorm room.

Which gives time in the middle to take my son to Europe.

It will be expensive, but what the hell? The cost of my regret for not doing it will be greater than the cost of the trip, which will, in time, be utterly forgotten.

So a few hours ago I booked the flights.  Like last time, we will arrive in Dublin, take a train to Galway, see some friends, travel back to Dublin, see some friends, then to London (to see some friends and visit with Jeremy Bentham) then the Eurostar to Paris and on to Caen to see some friends and to visit Omaha Beach – which will fulfill one of my son’s dreams.

Desire is destiny.

NEXT:  My awful experience with Travelocity trying to cut expenses by obtaining a credit for the tickets (my son’s round trip and my flight from Paris to San Francisco) to subsidize the cost of this new trip. To make a long story short, I gave up on the idea of a credit and booked our flights through Orbitz for half of what it would have cost me using my credit through Travelocity. I will never, ever use Travelocity to purchase anything.

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17 Responses to “THE PARENT FILES: History Repeating itself (again)(sort of)”

  1. Flinthart Says:

    You’re a good man, Prof Boylan. I hope I can keep that kind of rapport with my children as they pass through the tricky years ahead.

    PS: math is seriously overrated.

    Like

  2. paulboylan Says:

    Flint – What rapport? I’m trying to buy his affection.

    PS: Math has never been more important. Key to the universe.

    Like

  3. paulboylan Says:

    Actually, I have a very good relationship with my son, a better one than I deserve or have earned. I am going to miss him when he is so far away going to school.

    Like

  4. Good for you, Sir. You are going to have an awesome time. Nothing like Father/Son day at the brothel for that complete male bonding experience.

    Like

  5. bondiboy66 Says:

    As I’ve said earlier, this ought be a great trip for you and the lad. Rhino’s suggestion is a good one – also add a huge night on the turps afterward in celebration. That’s some serious father/son time!

    Illiterate eh? Does that explain why you went into lawyering?*

    *I’m gonna cop it for that remark I just know it

    Like

  6. paulboylan Says:

    Not coincidentally, my son is lobbying hard to include Amsterdam in our itinerary – and it ain’t because of interest in the coffee houses.

    Actually, Bondi, that is the reason I went into lawyering. I was ashamed and hid my defects from my fellow students. I did that by remembering what I heard and saw in class and speaking well. Later, in community college, I took a public speaking course. The professor recruited me for the school’s public speaking and debating team. With good coaching I did well, gravitating towards impromptu and extemporaneous speaking, eventually winning regional championships and ranking 8th nationally. After university, I worked a series of jobs, essentially living hand to mouth. When I got tired of that, I didn’t choose law so much as it chose me. It wasn’t my best choice: by then it was my only choice.

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  7. maths is not seriously overated FH, as Betrand Russell said “Mathematics possesses not only truth, but also supreme beauty”.

    The trip sounds like a wonderful idea, no chance of extedning the trip to include a journey for you and your son through an exotic south east Asian country, famous for its literary authors of alternative fiction and his online audience?

    Though I do recall an quote of Einstiens regarding mathematics which you should keep in mind whenever some mentions maths to you
    “Do not worry about your problems with mathematics, I assure you mine are far greater.”

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  8. paulboylan Says:

    Barnes – I intend on visiting the Land of Oz, perhaps next year. I need to be pointed to universities (business schools/law schools) that I can arm twist into inviting me to speak, and I will be depending on you, in part, to suggest some candidates.

    Like

  9. bondiboy66 Says:

    Well in Sydney I could recommend you try the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, or the University of Technology. It would be very worthwhile trying The Law Society in Sydney also – your one stop shop for matters legal.

    I’m a bit shocked – I didn’t expect a serious answer to my poke to the ribs!

    Like

  10. paulboylan Says:

    Who says I was being serious?

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  11. Always happy to help, I even know lawyers who caoul d provide recommendations of universities legal departments on a sliding scale of conservative to radical

    Like

  12. That’s great you’ve been able to finally nail the trip. Your son will love it. I can’t remember what I recommended last time but if you get anywhere near Morlaix in nrothern France watch out for Celtic festivals. As for Galway, in summer there’s usually a festival on and naturally plenty of pubs to get the young fella’s boots filled.

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  13. So you are going to make the trip!!!

    Enjoy!

    Bobby

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  14. paulboylan Says:

    Barnes – We will most definitely talk. I want to arrange talks in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra – and, if at all possible, Taz and NZ -which I think will allow me to eat and drink with as many burgers as is practical.

    Bobby – Yep. The trip is back on the front burner. I mean, what the hell, why not?

    Like

  15. Actually, Bondi, that is the reason I went into lawyering. I was ashamed and hid my defects from my fellow students. I did that by remembering what I heard and saw in class and speaking well. Later, in community college, I took a public speaking course. The professor recruited me for the school’s public speaking and debating team. With good coaching I did well, gravitating towards impromptu and extemporaneous speaking, eventually winning regional championships and ranking 8th nationally. After university, I worked a series of jobs, essentially living hand to mouth. When I got tired of that, I didn’t choose law so much as it chose me. It wasn’t my best choice: by then it was my only choice.
    +1

    Like

  16. Come to Brisbane and you won’t lack for hospitality – unlike those southern places where they’ll stick you with the bill, steal your clothes and dump you in the desert. The Burgers here will welcome you with open arms and declare both a holiday and a feast to honour you.

    Like

  17. If you think things can’t get worse it’s probably only because you lack sufficient imagination.

    Like

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