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CENTRAL VIEW for Monday, December 25, 2023

by William Hamilton, Ph.D.

Teaching The Pursuit of Excellence

During his 28 years in the Nebraska Unicameral, Senator Richard D. Marvel was beloved by Republicans and Democrats alike and, especially, for his fairness during the four years he served as Speaker. During the last 15 of those years, Richard Marvel, Ph.D. also taught Political Science at Nebraska Wesleyan University (founded 1887). NWU is a private college affiliated with the Methodist Church. In 1982, as he retired from both posts, Speaker Marvel asked me to take over his teaching duties at NWU where the student body comes largely from successful farm families who send their children to college already imbued with a strong work ethic.

As always, as when teaching for the European Division of the University of Maryland or for Columbia College, the first meeting with each class begins with a demonstration about the Pursuit of Excellence.

Three students are asked to volunteer. One student, his head wrapped in a bandage, is placed face up across my desk. He is the "patient" in urgent need of brain surgery. The other volunteers are outfitted in surgical scrubs.

After explaining the "patient" would die without expert brain surgery, the two "surgeons "are introduced. One received his M.D. from the Johns Hopkins University Medical School. The other "doctor" got his M.D from the Grace L. Williams Storm Door Company and Medical School.

The students are asked to vote on which "surgeon" the patient should choose. Spoiler alert: The vote outcome will be at the end of this newspaper column.

Meanwhile, the students are told they need not address me as: "Your Excellency." Professor or Dr. or Sir would do. They would be addressed as Mr. or Miss or Mrs., as appropriate to their marital status. Back then, there was no male bovine excreta about pronouns. No ball caps or hats in class. Modest attire for females. Only death would excuse an absence. Chew gum somewhere else.

Students could "contract" for either A or B and the exact requirements for each grade were explained. No "contracts" for lower grades. There would be three written tests: A practice test, a mid-term exam, and a final exam.

A term paper of not less than 1,500 words must be submitted. Any point of view would be acceptable. The purpose was to demonstrate an ability to write with clarity. We would follow Professor Marvelís practice of bringing in guest speakers with opposing political points of view.

Each student was given a genealogy chart to research and urged to talk with their elders about their memories of politics and elections. At some point, they would be sent to a local shopping mall to see how many people could name their elected representatives from the Court House to the White House. (The students always came back in shock.)

My afternoon office hours were posted and students were encouraged to drop by to discuss their course work or whatever was on their minds. Some were away from home for the first time and just needed an understanding ear.

As for choosing the brain surgeon, the graduate from the Grace L. >Williams Storm Door Company and Medical School received zero votes. Consequently, no one complained about the rather demanding course requirements. Quod erat demonstrqndum (Q.E.D.)

©2023. William Hamilton.

©1999-2024. American Press Syndicate.

Dr. Hamilton can be contacted at:

Email: william@central-view.com

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