On Oct. 9, I wrote fondly of my alma mater, Baton Rouge (La.) Magnet High School, here. I loved Baton Rouge High then, and I love it still. I owe more than I can repay to my teachers there -- and to the school's very existence.
For all I know, I might owe Baton Rouge High my life.
When I walked through the doors of that grand old school as a sophomore in 1976 -- its first year as a magnet school -- it was the first time I didn't have to worry about being looked on as a freak for doing well academically. For the first time, school was a place to be cherished instead of endured.
And, for the first time, I was among classmates who all wanted to be there.
For me, Baton Rouge High will always be the anteroom for a world of wonder and opportunity. I wonder for how many kids 30 years ago -- and for how many kids today -- 2825 Government Street has been the portal to an alternate universe completely beyond their experience and largely beyond their dreams.
That is, largely beyond their dreams until they got there.
Eureka! Life beyond learning a trade or hiring on at the Exxon refinery or Exxon Chemicals!
For me, Baton Rouge High was a Eureka! three years. Just like, some years before, popular TV shows like Room 222 had brought this child of the segregated South his first Eureka! glimpses of an exotic and largely tolerant society.
Speaking of tolerance and the segregated South, Baton Rouge High was the first opportunity I ever had to attend a school where racial integration was anything beyond token. And where friendships were routinely and easily formed across racial divides.
At Baton Rouge High, I got a first-rate college-prep education.
At Baton Rouge High, love of learning was the norm. Hiding one's light under a bushel basket for fear of an assaultive redneck culture was not.
I am Catholic, and I believe in grace -- defined as "a supernatural gift of God to intellectual creatures for their eternal salvation." You want to know what grace looks like?
For me, it looked a lot like Baton Rouge Magnet High School.
From what I understand, Baton Rouge Magnet High still is a great school. From what I read nowadays, kids there still love to learn, and teachers there still work their magic.
How, I do not know, given official neglect such as this:
And this (note the gym floor and the bucket to catch leaking rainwater):
And this . . . need water? Oh, wait, it doesn't work:
This is what East Baton Rouge Parish school administrators apparently think of the best high school they have -- perhaps the best the state of Louisiana has. Given that Louisiana languishes on the bottom of all the good rankings and at the top of all the bad ones, perhaps what has become of my school is just a big, fat metaphor for the whole damned state.
Not to mention a big, fat warning sign for any company stupid enough to consider locating in a city -- in a state -- where this is how much the civic culture supports public education. Remember, this is the creme de la creme in the Bayou State, and it looks like a Third World s***hole.
Kind of makes one wonder what the humdrum, run-of-the-mill schools look like in Baton Rouge, doesn't it?
Have you no shame, Baton Rouge? Have you no shame, Louisiana?
At long last, have you no shame?
(Visit the BRHS Alumni Association here.)