In Honor of Honors World History
I’m finishing my AP Government summer homework tonight. I’m not sure what good it’ll do or how I expect it to help, but I’m finishing my AP Gov tonight. And while a portion of this sudden decision is pure practicality, I’m doing it mostly because it’s the last thing I ever spoke to you about. It was the last day of school and I dropped by your room to wish you a happy summer. You asked me about my classes for senior year, and we caught up on my plans for college and law school. I’m sure we both understood that I thought of you as a mentor, being the only former lawyer teaching at our school. Towards the end of our brief conversation, I told you I was taking AP Government, and just before I left, you said, “Jaimeson. Don’t procrastinate on this.”
I sure hope this doesn’t count as procrastination. I’d hate to disappoint you. I always hated getting sent out in your class, partly because of the embarrassment but mostly because I knew I was missing an interesting lecture. You made the Cold War (literally) come alive with stories of your friend’s Russian mail order wife. You told us about first-hand experience dealing with civil rights litigation in the 60’s. You teased the kids in our class (myself included) who thought they were so incredible for having formed political opinions by 10th grade. I remember you called us all out for what we were, whether liberal or conservative, “textbook thinkers.” I remember I went home that day and thought, and I ended up with an idea that you confirmed when we spoke after class for the first time. You said that we were addicted to textbooks, that we relied on them to educate and form opinions. You said that that’s why it was so dangerous to fit so perfectly into the mold of a moderate or a Democrat or a Republican. You said that the best knowledge isn’t in textbooks, but in people. I asked you if that was why we rarely referred to the text in class. You said yes. I asked you if that gave me permission to stop nightly reading. “Not a chance.”
You weren’t a man to digress unnecessarily in your speeches, so I’ll try to keep this relatively short. As you would ask yourself almost daily, “What’s the point, Frye?”
The point. The point is I’m not sure. I’m not sure whether to categorize your teaching style as bluntly humorous or old-school conventional or strikingly modern. I’m not sure what combination of adjectives and nouns to use at this point. Thankfully, your class was about History, not English. And this post is meant to be for your history. The point is, I’m not sure how else to say goodbye to one of my greatest mentors and favorite teachers, so I’m doing it the only way I know how.
When the faculty told us that you had passed away earlier, and we were walking back to the leadership room, I was thinking about the times in your class and in our discussions. And I could imagine fairly well exactly what you would’ve said. You’d raise your arm and let your an expo marker drop from your hand and say, “This is reality, folks.”
This is reality, and eventually we’ll all pass away. But I am a firm believer in the idea of living on in the people whose lives you change. And if that idea carries any weight whatsoever, then I’m happy to say that after decades of teaching and inspiring hundreds of students just like me, you’ll be living on for quite some time.
And I know you would hate the fact that I’ve included a picture of you here. But this is what you get for not letting us keep the Facebook fan page. And besides, those turtleneck sweaters are the stuff of legend.
Mr. Dexter Frye, rest in peace. You are missed.
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