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Friday, June 10, 2011

Are Our Schools In Crisis?: Bigotry

Albert Abraham Michelson
1852 - 1931
I love Westerns. Bonanza was one of my favorites. I just watched an episode that aired in 1962. It was titled, Look To The Stars.

In this espisode a school teacher refuses to recommend a young man to the Naval Academy. He is openly hostile to the young man and basically refers to  him as rowdy. Ben Cartwright is confused why the teacher will not refer the extremely intelligent and gifted young man. He decides to champion the lad even when the young man's father does not want to make waves.

Finally, Ben calls the town together and announces that he is charging the School master with bigotry. The town is outraged. They warn Mr. Cartwright of the seriousness of his charges. Ben continues on his course. He produces a slip of paper from his pocket and hands it to the teacher. He asks him if these are the youngsters that he has expelled from the school. The teacher defends himself. He claims that the boys on the list were very disruptive in school. Ben pushes on. He brings in a young Mexican boy. He asks  him where he has been attending school. The young man confesses that he attends school in his father's stable. The teacher is perplexed. Ben goes on. He asks the boy who teaches him. The boy will  not answer. So Ben answers for him. As Ben speaks the room fills up with a motley crew of young men. They are all from different cultures. None of them are white.

Albert Abraham Michelson was the teacher. He was the young man that was generally endangering everyone with his experiments with light. The children had gotten together and decided that they did not need the adults who were hell bent on separating them because of their differences. Albert Abraham Michaelson gathered all of the Native Americans, Asians, Mexicans and anyone else that the School Master had refused to teach, because they did not look like him, in the stables of the Mexican stable boy's father. He was their teacher. The School Master was very embarassed and started to leave. Ben asked him to stay. The town did not want to keep him, because they were now embarassed. Ben asked them to be understanding, because we all have some prejudices in us.

Albert's father was the first to accept the teacher back. He explained that in his faith folks are allowed their mistakes. Albert Abraham was Jewish and had quite possibly established the very first Charter school in order to fight the injustices in Public Education that he saw in his town. This story is based on a true story. Albert Abraham Michelson did go on to the Naval Academy.  He also won the Nobel Prize in 1907 for his work in the field of Phyics. 

Business is thriving.   "How are the children?"

Photo from Nobel Lectures, Physics 1901-1921, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1967
 "Albert A. Michelson - Biography". 10 Jun 2011

This episode of Bonanza was supposed to have aired in 1962. I was a Bonanza addict and do not know how I could have missed it. It is well worth the watch and does a good job of exposing and examining bigotry in the west.