School (3)

By the time my enlistment in the army was finished, I was comfortable in Vietnamese, Chinese, and French, the three languages of Vietnam. NSA hired me at a grade six steps higher than the normal starting level and immediately sent me to Vietnam. I spent more time there for the next thirteen years than I did in the U.S. and escaped under fire when Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese in April 1975.

During those years, I had no time for further schooling. But I made up for it during the next eight years. I enrolled at the George Washington University for graduate work in government and ended up taking a doctorate in Public Administration in 1983. I didn’t return to school for a degree; I went back to learn. I was admitted provisionally because my undergraduate grades were less than stellar, but I earned straight A’s all the way through and graduated with distinction. Turned out I wasn’t so dumb after all.

The study of government was new to me, and once again I was fascinated. This was a new kind of schooling for me, much of it grounded in both science and philosophy which forced me to think at levels I had never before attempted. I loved it.

I was to have one more bout with schooling before I called it quits. That was to study Spanish, the most commonly spoken foreign language in the U.S. which I, a linguist by trade competent in six foreign languages, had failed to learn. After I retired from the government, I went for classes to the Howard County Community College in Columbia, Maryland. Once again, I relished the time in class. But this time it was a new experience. I was the oldest class member. My fellow students were young enough to be my grandchildren.

Hence my schooling. And my thorough enjoyment of learning in the classroom. I can bear witness that school is neither necessarily boring or unpleasant. It can be a distinct pleasure.

Put differently: I’m here to bear witness to the joy of learning in the classroom.

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