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Thrice Weekly
Written 1964-1965

Background:  How would you like to be a newspaper columnist, assigned to write three essays a week, on any topic of your choosing?  It could be fun.

I actually was able to pretend I had such a job back in 1964-65.  Our English composition course for high school seniors, taught by principal Dean Cochran, required us to turn in three "themes" every week.

Many of these essays have made it, in one form or another, onto this website.  I think all of the following fall into this category.

     The multi-part The Making of the (Student Council) President 1964
     The lyric description Rain in November
     The first half of Riding on the Basketball Bus
     Parts of Let the Sportscaster Beware
     The Great State of the Islands of Columbia
     Confederates on the Roof
     The Melting Pot
     Modern Times
     To a Staple

Here are three additional essays that I found in the form of rough pencil drafts in one of my old notebooks:  "Double President," "To Prevent Cheating," and "Be Thyself."  The first was submitted under the title "Good Enough" on February 9, 1965, and the second two days later.


Double President

I am the president of two organizations.  Both of these seem to be accomplishing less than they could; however, both are doing what is expected of them, so no one is really concerned.  These two organizations are the First Methodist Church Youth Fellowship and the National Honor Society.

The Methodist Youth Fellowship has a variety of purposes.  Every year its members raise a hundred dollars and send it off to Methodist headquarters to be deposited in some mysterious "youth fund."  There is a meeting almost every Sunday evening at which a program is presented.  At these meetings, devotions have been eliminated as boring and out of place, but cookies and soft drinks are always provided.  About once a month the routine is broken by a party, perhaps for Halloween, Christmas, or Valentine's Day, or by a trip to another church for a large-scale meeting.  The general feeling is that one goes to MYF mainly to have a good time, but, since the "club" is church-sponsored, there has to be some religion thrown in as well.

I didn't join MYF to have a good time, since I find that I can entertain myself quite well at home; therefore, I am bothered by the quality of those parts of the group's activities that are supposed to be meaningful.  The Methodist Church provides suggested materials for programs.  One standard method used in these programs is the discussion group, which occasionally works but usually accomplishes nothing.  Another is the abstract play, in which a deranged teenager on an empty stage cries out in agony because there are so many forces pulling him in different directions.  Since these suggested programs are considered ineffective and irrelevant, the local MYF usually plans its own.  Sometimes the results are good; sometimes they are bad; often they are indifferent.  It seems that more effective use could be made of this weekly opportunity, but no one seems to know how, and no one is really concerned enough to find out.

The National Honor Society is much less active as an organization than I expected it to be, considering all the importance which seems to be attached to being a member.  It is basically just what the name implies:  a society in which membership is mostly honorary, awarded on the basis of scholarship and other considerations.  In its only activities as an organization, it works as an auxiliary of the Student Council on the homecoming dance (to make money) and the scholarship banquet (to spend it).  There is quite a bit of ceremony connected with the solemn induction of new members.  But though the constitution provides for a regular meeting every month, through six months of the school year the Society does not even have meetings, for there is nothing to discuss.

The purpose of the Society, according to its constitution, is "to create enthusiasm for SCHOLARSHIP, to stimulate a desire to render SERVICE, to promote worthy LEADERSHIP, and to encourage the development of CHARACTER in students of Richwood High School."

The Society appears to be accomplishing this goal only passively, by making it desirable for students to be accorded the honor of being accepted as a member.  The only way in which it attempts actively to advance the cause of scholarship, service, leadership, and character is through the scholarship banquet.  It would seem that there could be a more vigorous way to accomplish the Society's purposes.

(Incidentally, one such project for the Society has been suggested by Student Council President Ed Olson:  a "tutoring service" which would arrange for good students to help poorer ones who are having trouble in a particular subject.  The idea hasn't been fully developed, but it is apparent that the usual problems of student time, administration, and advisability are inherent in it.)

Before either organization can be improved, two problems must be solved.

One is that the people involved have so many other activities that they can't give much of their time to the organization.

The other is that although there are many who feel that the two groups could be made better, there is no overpowering desire for improvement.  The situation is good enough the way it is.

So all I can reasonably do is to indicate that I'm unhappy with the way each organization is operating — not alarmed, mind you, just slightly dissatisfied — and to suggest that perhaps something could be done to make each group more effective, if anyone happens to have the time.


To Prevent Cheating

It is a poor reflection upon many colleges and universities in the United States that cheating on examinations given at these institutions is widespread.

This indicates that the colleges are failing to impress upon their students the principle of honesty.  Cheating is not entirely the fault of the students who do it.  It is equally the fault of the administrators who permit it.

As I see the problem, students trying to get a better grade with less work will cheat if they can.  They will look for the easy way out, for to do so is human nature; and, if they find this easy way, they will take it — unless to take it would produce unpleasant consequences.

Unpleasant consequences might include punishment by college officials or the faculty.  But if rules against cheating are not enforced, there will be no danger of punishment.

Unpleasant consequences might include a guilty conscience.  But if a student is allowed to cheat long enough, eventually his conscience will stop bothering him.

Unpleasant consequences might include a loss of respectability in the eyes of one's friends.  But if all the student's friends are also cheating, they cannot very well look down on him.

We find that at the colleges in question, there are no immediate drawbacks to cheating, and therefore there is little reason not to cheat.

Therefore, one cannot simply wish that cheating would stop, for of its own accord it will not.  It must be stopped.

Rules against it must be strictly enforced, with a failing mark the penalty.  Professors must watch closely to prevent any transfer of information.  The tests must not be repeated every year in the same form.  Between the time they are created and the time they are administered, the tests must be guarded to prevent theft or unauthorized reading.

Only by making it impossible to get away with cheating can the practice be stopped.


Be Thyself

Silly one!  Do you really want to go to church today?  Or are you going merely because it's expected of you?

Of course, attending church is good; but you will get little benefit from it if you go with an unwilling attitude.

Silly one!  Do you really want to go to that dance?  Or are you going merely because it's expected of you?

Of course, a dance is often fun, but there are nights when you'd rather stay at home.

Silly one!  Do you really feel you should get married?  Or are you getting married merely because it's expected of you?

Of course, most people do marry, but this does not mean that you can't be happy unless you do, too.

And when you decide to wear a hat, or go to college, or like the Beatles, or become a teacher, is your decision wholly yours?  Is it not based largely upon what other people see and expect?

Of course, other people have a right to expect certain things.  They have a right to be offended if you wear pajamas to a dinner party.  But the way they conduct their personal lives should not dictate the way you conduct yours, for you and they are not the same.  Your experience and your feelings are a better source of data for your decisions than are the decisions other people have reached.

Remember, then:  Make your own decisions, in your own way, using your own opinions and your own best judgment.  You may be wrong a few times, but at least you will be yourself.




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