On Topic: What I Wish I Learned In High School

Photo by Matt Hoffman on Unsplash

I took a U.S. Government class in high school. At least I think I did.

I apologize in advance to my Mom and any other teacher who may be reading this — I can’t remember anything that I learned in that class.

It’s not because I wasn’t paying attention, but because there was nothing to pay attention to.

The room was as prison-like as any other in the school. The walls had gone decades without a fresh coat of paint. The floor titles scuffed by thousands of shoes before mine. The windows looked out onto our school’s inner courtyard, used only for what the administration liked to call senior study hall, where the outgoing class got the opportunity to sit outside and do nothing for 42 minutes instead of inside — what a treat. Some of us were unlucky enough to have a class during said senior time, taunted by the idea of fresh air and time on our phones as the instructor droned on.

My teacher’s name was Mr. Lustig — Charles as the other teachers called him. A fitting name if you ask me. We would eventually become friends on Facebook which he used almost exclusively to wish former students and family members happy birthday. Charles was among the older teachers at my school. He was one of the few who taught both my mom and me, despite our 30 year age difference.

Charles was interesting because of his quirk, not because of the way he taught.

Any given class would begin about 15 minutes into the period. He’d hand out some sort of worksheet or assignment and give us the rest of the class time to complete it, or not. Some of the students would spend the first half of class in the cafeteria — the second half, eating whatever they brought back.

I can remember…nothing. Truly. I wish that I could. I so wish I could look back and say “Ah yes, that’s when I learned x or y.”

Very recently, there is something specific I wish Charles had at least attempted to teach us.

Impeachment.

Now, before we go further, I will admit to being a less than perfect student. I got good grades, tested well, but paying attention was never my strong suit. Neither was homework, but that’s a discussion for another day.

It is entirely possible the idea of impeachment was introduced in another class, possibly U.S. history or Social Studies, so we won’t put this all on Mr. Lustig — just some of it.

I first learned of impeachment and the associated proceedings when many others my age did — as we watched the process unfold for the first time during the Trump presidency.

Working in news at the time (as I was during the second impeachment, and as I am now) it was obviously important for me to not only understand the process, but to be able to convey it both to my viewers and to those around me.

It wasn’t too difficult to understand. I was aided by the fact that it resembled, if only slightly, an NFL end-of-season playoff scenario. If the House does this and the Senate does that then the Bills secure a wildcard spot. You get it.

We know how it played out. The House did their thing, the Senate fell short. I will never forget how I felt watching the Senate vote, first on Article I, then on Article II. Though Senators voted as they were expected to, and the outcome was far short of the necessary super-majority, each yea and nay amazed me all the same. I was enthralled with the history unfolding in front of me. It reminded me of two very distinct moments in my life, both of which occurred in front of the television.

The protests and riots that followed the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri — and the manhunt that unfolded in the days following the Boston Marathon Bombing. I imagine it’s how people felt watching OJ’s White Bronco fly down an empty freeway — or watching in horror as the Twin Towers collapsed.

But it wasn’t until the second impeachment of Trump’s presidency I realized how few people in my circle knew of the process as well as I did — as well as we all should.

And that’s when I thought of 6th period U.S. Government class. I could have learned early on that checks and balances went well beyond judicial challenges to controversial rulings, or the veto power held by the commander in chief.

The ability to impeach and remove a sitting President based on his/her actions should not exist as a threat, but rather as a reminder. Actions that deserve to be followed by consequences often are. It’s a damn shame it took a foolish phone call made by an undeserving, unappreciative, 74-year-old ego-maniacal sociopath to teach me what I should have learned in 11th grade, or long before it.

If you made it this far, congratulations, and thank you.

Until next time.

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