Storming 807

Bob Rose's run at empty libraries, boring classes, and the "pampered elite."

But the average amount each teacher takes out of her pockets to subsidize the school every year is $678. Every teacher I ever taught with was always digging in their pockets, loaning kids money, buying things.

So I say, close down 807 one day a week. They have a four-day work week during the summer, why not the rest of the year? Most of those people are licensed teachers. Put them in the classroom every Friday.

I'll give you another example. This year, Minneapolis schools will get $48.83 million in compensatory aid, which is $10 million more than the year before. This is supposed to go to the [individual] schools, but the most they've gotten is 40 percent. The other 60 percent stays downtown. And at the school-board meeting September 30, the board said we're not going to send any compensatory funds down to the schools until those schools have a plan in place.

That board is so far away from reality. There isn't a school in Minneapolis that hasn't been planning for years. Those teachers and parents are not going to run away with that money. They are going to show where they need professionals, where they need ancillary personnel, where they need materials. They're going to have receipts, for heaven's sakes.

So that's the reason I'm running. I don't need it, but I thought, maybe just by virtue of being on the board and asking questions, I could make some changes. There are enough people who would support some of these ideas I've got.

CP: What would it take for you to get elected?

ROSE: I've looked at all the numbers from 1965 to 1995 and it's true that the DFL endorsement is tantamount to election. But they're in a tussle with me because I have good name recognition and I have so many people out there working with me. I want people to campaign for me who know me, who have worked with me or have been in my classes. They carry on the things they picked up in the classroom.

CP: What are those?

ROSE: First of all, I don't think you can teach any kid until they're ready to learn. You've got to find out where they are. Their sensibilities, their background, how fast they learn, who are the leaders, who are the people who are set in their ways--all the factors that go into assessing a group of 25, 30 people. Then I toss out feelers like you do when you go fishing, and I try to fish for some kind of commonality. Usually it's something very close to home, something they feel very strongly about or they've had an argument about or whatever.

With Columbus in '92, that was a natural. I went to the Smithsonian and brought out all the materials they had, did a lot of reading, and got many Native American speakers. We went back in history--what was Europe like before that period of exploration? What was the aftermath? There's no secret there. You don't stick to a textbook. You cannot teach by giving kids a textbook and writing the answers to the questions at the end of the chapter. That's not education. And I'm not sure that we're not going back to that with these graduation standards--everything cognitive, tell me the first three amendments to the Constitution, the first seven presidents.

The hardest thing to teach is attitude. And you don't get an attitude by talking. You get an attitude by being involved. How do you become more tolerant of somebody different than you? It's by becoming acquainted with them. And if you can't become acquainted personally, you can go through the literature, or you can get a video, eat some food, prepare the damn food, grind the corn.

I had a student teacher once, and we were covering the 1920s, how that period changed America, how we still have influences from it culturally, musically, and so on. So we decided we would do the Charleston. We took every bit of furniture out of the room and did the Charleston for a couple of days. This was a big guy. He had the kids in the palm of his hand.

CP: Those things all sound as if they'd take a lot of time and money.

ROSE: Not that much. But you do need a good library. The libraries in the schools right now are filled with books that mean nothing to the students. So I used to have soapboxes, with a card catalog. One soapbox had maybe 25 copies of a Time magazine that had something about abortion. Another would have something about Abe Lincoln's view on slavery. Another had something about Marco Polo. I used to have 300 or 400, but I ran out of room.

But you know, that student teacher who did the Charleston--he couldn't get an interview downtown. He had a great resume, went to work in Kodiak, Alaska, in Japan, in Saudi Arabia. I was trying to get him back here, and he sent his resume in. They said, "We don't need any teachers." Now we find out they're 275 teachers short, and at South they have 40 students in a classroom.

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