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Why I am More than “Qualified”

Why I am More than “Qualified”

Rob DeLoss, Galicia, Spain 2008

me in Galicia, Spain

“For herein is the evil of ignorance, that he who is neither good nor wise is nevertheless satisfied with himself: he has no desire for that of which he feels no want.” (Socrates)

I can think of no better place or person to start with than Socrates, the Father of Western philosophy. And like Socrates, I too, don’t like to brag, and I too, understand the paradox of knowledge i.e. the more you learn, the less you know. In other words, the more knowledgeable you become, the more you realize how little you actually know & how much more knowledge there is out there. I am writing this because to be quite frank, I am sick & tired of being told by perspective employers that I’m ‘not qualified.’ And though I am by nature, usually humble, this is going to sound very arrogant or egotistical but this is what I truly feel is hidden from most employers in interviews they have with me.

I guess you could say that from the beginning of my life, I have had a thirst or hunger for knowledge? My mother told me that when I started kindergarten, I would often wake up early & dress myself—usually wrongly—and she’d wake up and have to go down to the school because I’d be sitting outside the door waiting for school to open. We moved around a lot as I was growing up and books became my friends. I started reading classics like Bambi, Robin Hood, Treasure Island, etc. at my grama’s house when I was in the 2nd grade. I also started dreaming of being a writer around this time. When I was in the 6th grade, we were given what used to be called a battery of I.Q. tests, and they said that I was reading at the 11th grade, 6th month level. I understand that today, the average high school graduate reads at the 8th grade level. When I graduated from high school in 1971, the lottery for the military was in effect. My number was so low that I knew they’d draft me soon so I joined the army because it had the least amount of time. I must’ve scored pretty well on their battery of tests they gave us the first week of basic training because they took me and 3 or 4 other guys to several meetings with some high ranking officers. In these meetings, they promised us the moon i.e. we could be stationed wherever we wanted & could be trained in whatever military occupational specialty we wanted. But we had to re-up (sign up for an additional 4 years), I didn’t even want to be a squad leader because I saw how cruel guys would be to poor slobs who just came in & even though the jerks would often only have a week or two on the new guys. I remained firm & turned down all their enticements to become an officer. And after I had been stationed at my ‘permanent’ base for a few months in San Antonio, Texas and heard that orders were coming down & half of us were going to Vietnam and half of us to Germany, I started going AWOL so I’d be tied up in court martial proceedings or whatever & they wouldn’t be able to ship me out. I feel great sympathy for all those who went to Vietnam but I trusted my gut instincts and didn’t think it was a very good idea. And I wasn’t politically aware at the time.

I accepted an Undesirable Discharge from the army and started going to junior college. I had no idea what I wanted to study so I kept taking a wide variety of courses and dropped out of a lot of them sometimes half way or three quarters of the way through them. And as I tell friends, though I didn’t get the credit for those courses I dropped out of, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t learn anything while I was there. I also worked at a wide variety of what I call, ‘Mickey Mouse’ jobs. I think I could probably be in the Guinness Book of Records for the number of jobs I’ve had. And in between these jobs working in factories, gas stations, delivery driving, U.S. Census taker, industrial x-ray, etc., I started hitchhiking. At first, I only went as far as Santa Barbara—starting from Orange County i.e. Fullerton. But as I gained more experience & became more and more successful in my hitchhiking adventures, I started going all the way to Oregon to visit my grama and cousins. I had made it back & forth several times to Oregon and one time made it all the way on only $6. Then in 1974, I hitched up to Oregon and visited with my grandmother and learned that the World’s Fair was going on in Spokane, Washington so hitched up there to check it out. Felt adventurous and headed east. Made it to Michigan to my cousins’ and stayed a few weeks. Decided to visit a friend in Boston and made it there & spent some time on Cape Cod and down the street from M.I.T. in Somerville, Massachusetts. I then hitched back to Chicago and a black man in the South Side of Chicago befriended me because I drank beer with him all afternoon and didn’t think I was too good to drink after a black man. I then went down to Arkansas and visited friends in Russellville. Last leg of my journey was from Arkansas back to L.A. I logged something like 10,000 miles that summer and was gone for two months. I spent only $26 going all the way across the U.S. and that was on beer & wine that I shared with people who had been especially kind to me.

After this experience, there was no holding me back. I hitched up to Oregon that winter and worked with my uncle for a month. He was a real bastard. He had a tree trimming business in Portland, Oregon and he’d be up in the tree with a chainsaw & my job was to haul the branches as they fell, to the truck and load them on back. I didn’t move fast enough for him and he called me every name in the book and then some for the entire day. I made $80 for a month of this abuse and when I’d go out to the local taverns, girls would often rave about how great Hawaii was. I got a Social Security check for $120 for attending college that wasn’t suppose to be sent to me because I had dropped out again. So, I bought a one-way ticket to Oahu, Hawaii and landed with about $80 in my pocket. I spent a month in Hawaii i.e. met some nice people who invited me to be their guest and we went out disco hopping almost every night. Got another Social Security check from my mom & flew back to L.A. A couple of years later in the summer of 1976, I went to Europe for the first time.

I had dreamed of going to Europe since I was in the 2nd grade approximately. The only thing I can think of as to why I had such a strong desire to go and from since such an early age was because of that Shirley Temple movie “Heidi,” and the fact that I found a travel journal some college students who had rented my grama’s top floor apt. out, had left behind. Switzerland, now that I reflect on it, has been on my mind since maybe even first grade. Because I can remember my first girlfriend, Connie Hockett, in the 1st grade and I was staying with my grama and Connie & I would sit on the picnic table at the corner park and plan on when we grew up, we’d get married and live in Switzerland. We wanted to live high up in the Alps in a little log cabin and raise dogs. We’d be a few hours hike from the nearest village and only go down to the village when we needed supplies. I guess I have been a hopeless romantic my entire life?

Several years had gone by since my year in the army and I was tired of getting nowhere with dead-end jobs and fed up with asking family and friends if I could crash on their couches. So, in desperation I actually considered joining the military again. I was up in Portland again and went to the local navy recruiter. I figured I wouldn’t tell him about my ‘bad’ discharge from the army until after I had taken their tests. I thought once they saw that I was pretty intelligent, they might be more motivated to go to bat for me and possibly overlook my past ‘mistake?’ After completing the 3 hour test downtown, the test supervisor politely said, ‘we’re not accusing you of cheating or anything but would you mind taking the vocabulary section of the test over again, we’ve never had anyone score that high on it before.’ I said, sure, no problem! When I sat down with the recruiter to go over my options for training, I was really shocked by what he offered me because I had always thought that I was sort of mechanically challenged so to speak. He offered me an advanced electronics program, which would entail a year and a half of training. This surprised me because I remembered that in the army, most of the advanced training courses were no more than two months of training. By the way, the reason I had decided on the navy was because I figured even though I’d be in the military which I hated, at least I’d have a roof over my head, three square meals a day, and I’d get to see some more of the world. But when I told the recruiter about my Undesirable from the army and he checked into it, he said sorry, too much time had elapsed since I left the army. If I had applied within 4 years of leaving the army, I could’ve joined the navy. I just realized that I got off the subject of my first trip to Europe. You’ll have to excuse me, it’s the middle of the night and I’m a little groggy. This project was nagging at me so much that my subconscious woke me up and made me come to the computer to get it down. Okay, back to Europe.

I had already paid for my ticket to Europe on a charter flight and the length of stay was for 3 months & there was no returning earlier if I ran short of funds or anything. I was counting on some money coming in from a couple of sources but they fell through and I said the hell with it, I’m going anyway. I’ve always wanted to do this and wasn’t about to turn back now. My mom was proud of me and my determination and a day before I was to leave, she came over to the friend’s house that I was staying with and gave me a Eurail pass good for two months. On the flight over, a couple of the people I spoke to were amazed that I was going to Europe with only $400 because they had around $5,000. And it didn’t take me long to go through my $400. I was so desperate that I took the train down to Algeciras, Spain and took a ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar to Tangiers, Morocco because I’d heard that you could sell your Levi jeans for a good price there. I stayed up all night in the town square with an Englishman who had warned me not to buy the hashish that guys with turban-wrapped heads were all trying to sell me because they’d sell it to you and then turn you into the police. And you’d rot in their prisons, which were more like dungeons and nothing like American jails. It was so spooky that the next morning we took a bus down the coast to another port you had to go to for the ride back across to Spain. I made my way back to England because I had looked up some people when I first landed in London who had an antique furniture restoring business and after staying with them for a few days, they told me they were moving to the country and had a lot of work to do. I thought perhaps I could work for them in exchange for room and board? I hadn’t eaten for 3 days and on the train, a weird-looking Arab guy in a group of Arabs or Muslims, I’m not sure? Offered me a sardine sandwich and even though I hate sardines, I took it because I was starving and it tasted great. When I found my friends’ house in southern England i.e. Surrey, they were off on a buying trip and I camped out on a park bench for a day or so. I spent the majority of the day in the public library reading. I even asked the local police if I could sleep in a cell for the night but they said sorry.

Finally hooked up with my friends and worked for them for nearly a month. They had bought part of an old nunnery and owned 3 buildings. I helped put in a spiral staircase, several skylights, built a fence, dug a garden, & stripped several pieces of old furniture. My mother sent me $200 and I was off and hitchhiking around England. A lorry driver (truck driver) who had given me a ride, told me when I asked if he knew of any work I could find, to check the Yellow Pages phone books for furniture removal firms i.e. moving companies, and to tell them I’m looking for work. After only a couple of phone calls, a guy told me to meet him at a pub. I did and I was working the next day. We’d get paid cash at the end of the day and we’d meet in the local pub. My work mates had given me an address of a girl they said would put me up for the night—I later learned they were setting me up with a kinky gal and her even kinkier boyfriend but fortunately for me, as I was walking down the street from the pub after several pints of beer, I asked 3 young people walking together for directions and they invited me to join them at their flat for a few more drinks. I did so and we had a great time and great conversation. They invited me to spend the night and then to stay with them for a while. I ended up staying with them for about two weeks as I recall?

Well, that was the highlights of my first trip to Europe. I have been to Europe 8 times so far. And sometimes I’d land with as little as $200 and a one-way ticket and see how long I could stretch it out. I’ve frozen my butt off and had some scary times and have had to be very resourceful to survive but I don’t regret one minute of it. I read that to be a writer, one has to read a lot, experience a lot, & write a lot. And everything in my life is material to be mined when I sit down in front of the typewriter or computer or blank page to write. By the way, I almost left out one of the best experiences and most important aspects of my European adventures, on my first trip I looked up a friend of a friend whose name is Ruedi. He is a Swiss citizen and when I got to his parents’ home in Basel, they told me that he was on vacation in Spain. So, I took the train to Spain to visit him in Cadagues on the Costa Brava just across the border from France. This charming little seaside resort was where Salvador Dali lived. I bring Ruedi up because he was an important catalyst in my life. I soon discovered that Ruedi, although 2 years younger than me & a Swiss citizen, knew far more than I did about American literature, history, politics, etc. And I bring this up because I have noticed over the course of my life that people seem to have basically two typical responses when they meet someone they feel is more intelligent than they are and sadly, the usual response is to attempt to put that person down by mocking, ridiculing, or ignoring them. I’m proud to say that my response is the atypical one and that is to attempt to pick their brain so to speak. I loved my conversations with Ruedi and he was very humble and recommended authors for me to check out. In addition, Ruedi was very considerate of my feelings and would compliment me and try to build my self-confidence. Ruedi and I developed a correspondence over the years and whenever I was feeling low and losing faith in myself due to my ‘friends’ and family members labeling me a loser, a quitter, etc. for changing jobs so often and dropping out of college courses repeatedly, a letter from Ruedi would reassure me. Since meeting Ruedi, my reading has skyrocketed not only in quantity but in quality as well. And I don’t recall where I got the idea or developed the habit but I have been making notes in the blank pages of my books for years. I either copy a passage I think is important verbatim or I paraphrase it. I also employ a crude symbolic system of hearts, stars, triangles, squares, & circles to try to distinguish between the values of particular quotes. Sometimes I’ll also put the name of a friend whom I remember having a discussion or debate with next to a relevant quote. I got into this habit I think for two reasons primarily: 1) to show passages to friends in an effort to share with them my excitement & to hopefully inspire them; 2) and for possible future use in my writing.

Moreover, regarding the subject of writing, as I mentioned earlier, I dreamed of being a writer since I was in the 2nd grade approx.? I took a little test in a copy of the Reader’s Digest that my grama had. It was from a correspondence course that Rod Serling of “The Twilight Zone” fame headed I guess? Anyway, I got something like an 85 on the test but the course cost something like $200 and we didn’t have it so I never took it. I have always dabbled in writing short stories of fiction and non-fiction essays and etc. but all too often that inner critic told me ‘who do you think you’re fooling, you have no talent, this is crap!’ And even though I’ve finished a lot of little pieces, I’ve also left unfinished a lot of pieces as well. My lack of self-confidence usually won out for the better part of my life in terms of my writing. Then one summer when my son was about a year old and I was out of work, I got the idea to pursue the Christian fundamentalists and their fear & hatred of the ‘evil’ secular humanists. By the end of the summer, I had a stack of note slips of paper approx. 4 X 5 in. about 5 or 6 inches high. Then that old inner demon sneaked up on me again and I thought, how in the hell am I going to organize all these notes into a coherent order and those notes sat on my bookshelves for nearly 17 years. Finally, a couple of years ago I decided the hell with it, I’m going for it and spread all my notes out on my front-room floor and started to develop loose categories or headings which I wrote in red on the top of each note slip. After a couple of days, it gradually came together. Not perfect but it gave me a foothold so to speak and a place to make a start. By the time I was finished, I had approx. 300 pages written and it felt great getting it down on paper finally. As I was writing, I began to think of connections to other things and a much larger project began to form in my mind. So, I continued and the next section dealt with the anti-intellectualism in America. I used Richard Hofstadter’s classic Anti-intellectualism in American Life and my extensive notes in my copy of it as a sort of skeleton upon which to hang my ideas or reactions to his thoughts. After this section of my project, I started on John Taylor Gatto’s The Underground History of American Education and used it in the same manner as Hofstadter’s book. And throughout the course of my writing, I slip in stuff from all sorts of other books, articles, & etc. that I have. I make sure to cite authors, page numbers, etc. for every source I use. I also insert my own life experiences when I feel they are relevant & I often give the particular dictionary definition I intend or synonyms because I know that people in general are too lazy—myself included—to go look up a word they don’t know. My aim is to be as clear as possible not to insult people’s intelligence but because I believe this stuff to be very important and I truly want to be understood. As I’m nearing the end of Gatto’s book, I have written a little over 1600 pages. The last two sections are going to be on the mainstream or corporate media and the transnational or multinational corporations. My purpose or goal throughout this work is to discover/reveal as many interconnections between these key areas as I possibly can. I hope to show some major ties between these factors affecting all our lives in an effort to empower people and show them that the seeming chaos does have a crude pattern or logic to it.

Because of my consistent nonconformity or unconventional life, I have been blocked at many points from doing the work that I know I’m really suited for i.e. teaching. And this book I’m writing is my way of teaching if the system won’t let me. It’s also an attempt to get down on paper, as much as I can of what I feel is the best of what I’ve learned. And finally, this book will be the legacy I leave for my son. I only hope that someday he will be inspired or motivated to read it. It will reveal to him a lot of who I am. As I get older, I get bolder and I recently had the audacity to write to Noam Chomsky. And to my great delight, he responded. For those of you who might not know of him—don’t feel bad, the vast majority of Americans have never heard of him because he has been marginalized by the establishment—the New York Times has called him “arguably the most important intellectual alive,” and the Chicago Tribune has called him “one of the ten most quoted people in history along with Jesus, Buddha, Socrates, Confucius, etc. & the only one alive today.” I told Mr. Chomsky briefly of my book and he said, “that’s quite an ambitious project but an important one.” This is one of the greatest honors of my life and I couldn’t believe that a man of Chomsky’s stature and fame would take the time, no matter how brief, to actually respond to a letter from someone like me who has been ‘turned down’ so many times by employers and told that I wasn’t qualified! For the past 30 years or so since I met Ruedi, I probably average 8 hours per day when I’m not working and 3 or 4 hours per day when I am working, reading, writing, researching history, politics, philosophy, etc. and even though I’m proud of having finally earned that Bachelor’s Degree because it proved all those who called me a quitter, wrong, but my real education or my greatest knowledge has been what I’ve learned pursuing my own intellectual interests. I have collected somewhere around 7,000 books since I got serious in my pursuit of wisdom after meeting Ruedi so many years ago. I don’t mean to sound as if I’m putting Ruedi up on a pedestal or something. I have had the hunger for knowledge all my life as I started out telling you in my kindergarten experience. But Ruedi does deserve credit for inspiring me to even more aggressively pursue knowledge. I believe as some have put it, that it breaks down to 3 basic parts i.e. information or facts, which lead to knowledge, which leads to wisdom. And wisdom isn’t a magical state that once you reach it, you have it forever more. We can have glimpses of wisdom and then slip back into folly and stupidity. But it’s not the end of the road i.e. wisdom, that ultimately matters. It’s the journey towards the goal and the joys and sorrows along the way that make up what life is about in my opinion. Okay, time for me to backtrack to another important turning point in my life i.e. meeting my wife.

It was 1981 and I was pumping gas for a job and sleeping on my grama’s couch in L.A. and riding a bicycle for transportation. A friend of mine called me up and asked me if I wanted to go out. I told him I was broke and he said not to worry about it. I saw her walk across the room and liked the way she carried herself so I asked her to dance. We danced and talked for a few songs and hit it off. Then I went back over to where my friend and I were sitting and he and I went outside for some fresh air for a while. When we came back inside, she came over and asked me to dance. I spent the rest of the evening talking and dancing with her. Her name was Jeri and she was a teacher and had done a bit of traveling herself. She was working on her Master’s Degree and was a very busy woman. When she said she had to leave, I walked her out to her car and when it came time to say goodbye, instead of giving her a kiss goodbye, I kissed her hand. Trying to act suave and sophisticated or something? The next day we went on our first date i.e. we flew a kite at the beach. And from that day on, we spent every night together either at her apt. or mine. I got a job in a warehouse shortly after meeting her and rented an apt. I was at first very flattered that someone so respectable as a teacher and pursuing a Master’s, would be interested in me. But after being around Jeri for a few months, I slowly began to realize that I was just as smart as she was. This realization and her love for me gave me the inspiration & motivation to knuckle-down and pursue my college education. I realized that I had only been hurting myself, so to speak, and made a promise to myself that from then on, I would not drop out of any courses. I now had a reason to finish college i.e. I wanted to prove myself worthy of Jeri’s love & belief in me. I still hadn’t found any subject that inspired me enough to want to pursue it for 4 years of full-time studies in college. But when I started classes at Long Beach City College and took an introduction to philosophy class, I was hooked. The teacher, Mr. Pendleton, was brilliant and inspired me. He had a twinkle in his eyes like a mischievous leprechaun. I earned more units in one year than I had in 6 or 7 years before meeting Jeri.

Jeri and I moved in together after about 3 or 4 months of spending every night together. And then I transferred to Cal State Long Beach to pursue a B.A. Sadly, the philosophy dept. at CSULB was a bitter disappointment and philosophy is such a tough academic discipline that I compare it to building a house. If you don’t have a strong foundation, the structure will eventually crumble. And rather than risk that, I switched to English literature reasoning that even if I got some lousy professors, I could at least enjoy the reading. I even made the Dean’s Honor List in the spring of 1983—a first for me. While I was attending CSULB, I worked part-time at a middle school in a Reading Lab for students reading below the 40th percentile. The teacher, Mrs. Hash, was very supportive and I really enjoyed the experience. A couple of years later after Jeri & I had moved to Oregon for the second time because she had just given birth to our son, Ryan, and I wanted to raise him in a better environment, I started work in what was called a Developmentally Delayed classroom. And I must admit that at first I was scared because one of the students was bigger than me & as he came lumbering towards me, I didn’t know what to expect. There was another assistant, the teacher, & myself and we were a great team. In fact, near the end of the year, one of the supervisors came into our classroom and said we were the models for the best staff team in the district. I learned a lot about the multi-handicapped and came to realize that although they have mental, physical, & emotional problems in varying combinations of course, they basically are the same as the rest of us in that they want to be accepted, to have a boyfriend or girlfriend, to eventually get their own place, etc. While working full-time in this position, I completed the last 7 units for my B.A. at Portland State University. Jeri worked part-time after Ryan seemed ready enough to be left with a babysitter for 4 hours per day. That was one of the scariest decisions we ever made i.e. to trust a stranger with our baby. Near the end of the school year, I had heard of a teacher trainee program with L.A. Unified Schools and had become confident that I could become a teacher. Even though I had flown down to L.A. to interview for the program & had passed several interviews, in the final interview I was asked what my methodology was and I didn’t have a clue as to what methodology was. Therefore, I was turned down for the program. Nonetheless, we moved back to L.A. and eventually, I got into substitute teaching at the secondary level and teaching adult ESL classes sometimes at night.

I was thrown into some rather tough classrooms. The first long-term position I was in was at a middle school in an ESL/English classroom. These students had chased every substitute for a couple of months away. The longest any sub. lasted was for 4 days. After about my 4th or 5th day, I called the sub. unit and asked how many days I had to stay with it before I could turn the assignment down and not have it held against me. She said we like for our subs. to at least give it 10 days so I gritted my teeth and said okay and believe it or not, as I neared the 10th day, I actually began to see a little improvement. At first, students were jumping out the windows—we were at the ground level in a bungalow—slamming the doors nearly off their hinges, kicking, fighting, stealing from one another, yelling, etc. In other words, it was chaos and near pandemonium. Mind you, I have never taken one single teacher education course. I did consult my wife frequently and she gave me some very important pointers. One of the reasons these classes were probably out of control was because they had been relegated to a dusty, old bungalow that not only didn’t have any pleasant décor, posters, or anything resembling a classroom, they didn’t even have enough textbooks to go around or to be able to take home for completion of homework. The students were mostly half Hispanic and the other half were Armenian.

Jeri suggested I make up a list of class rules and a list of goals. I did so on a couple of large, poster sized sheets of material. I also brought in several travel posters of exotic locations and a few plants. I kept nagging the principal and the dept. chairperson for a full set of textbooks and eventually got them. I recall that near the beginning of this assignment, I was complaining to a teacher over lunch in the staff cafeteria and she said that the administration was very supportive & that I should make up a pile of referral slips with everything filled in except the student’s name. And she told me to send as many as it took to the referral room until I eventually got down to those students who wanted to work. Well, I took her advice and the next class I had after lunch, I sent over 20 students to referral in one period. An administrator came in and said ‘Mr. DeLoss, we can’t have this.’ I told them what the other teacher had told me and the administrator said, ‘well, if it gets so out of control, send a student for one of us.’ I told them that I couldn’t even get a single student to go for assistance because they were fearful of being beaten up by their classmates. So, I was the joke of the school for several days after that. I also recall a day that I had held several students back during their snack period because they just wouldn’t be quiet or do their work & etc. during class time. And even during their discipline time, they wouldn’t settle down. I was fuming and saying in my head, ‘you little shits aren’t going to chase me out of here!’ I lost my temper and yelled Shut Up! And slammed my fist down on my desk so hard that I thought I had either broken the desk or my hand. The students were shocked and shut up immediately. We finished the snack period discipline episode without another peep. And slowly the classes started to shape up and we actually managed to do some work. Every time I saw the principal in the hallways, she’d exclaim, ‘boy, you must have skin of leather! And I owe you!’ (Yeah, right! I asked her a few months later for a reference and she couldn’t be bothered and after repeated phone calls to her, she eventually wrote me a 3 or 4 line letter to the effect of; yeah, he worked here and he was punctual. Anyway, the Emergency credential I held, only allowed me to teach in any one classroom for 30 days so after 6 weeks, I had to move on. Oh yeah, before I left, one day the principal made a surprise visit to my classroom with a couple of high level state officials and told them what an amazing job I had done in this position. Okay, I have been going on for perhaps a bit too long or in too much detail so I’m now going to just throw out some somewhat random things I want to include which I believe also reflect why I’m a very ‘qualified’ person for just about any type of work but especially for any positions requiring teaching or leadership skills.

Altogether, I have worked as an educator in one form or another for over 15 years. I have been a teaching assistant in Special Education classrooms, in a reading lab, a substitute teacher at the secondary level and a long-term teacher at the secondary level in ESL classrooms for 2 months or more, an adult education teacher of ESL, a tutor who traveled to adult students’ homes to teach them ESL, an ESL teacher in a factory where I taught in the boardroom at night, a lead trainer who worked with multi-handicapped adults in vocational settings, a respite worker for a young man with cerebral palsy, a one-on-one assistant for a student with Praeder-Willi Syndrome, & a one-on-one with students who were autistic. But without a doubt, the greatest assignment of my teaching career was a short 6 weeks as an ESL teacher for a couple of classes of high school students mostly from El Salvador & Nicaragua. These students had seen some pretty horrific things & I hope I never have to witness what they did. They were a total joy to work with and they truly appreciated my efforts to help them. In fact, I volunteered to meet any of them who would like some additional help on Saturday mornings at the local library. One day just as I was signing out in the main office, the principal’s secretary told me that the principal wanted to interview me right then. Fortunately, I was dressed better than usual that day and was wearing a dress shirt and slacks. To my surprise, it was not only the principal but also the English dept. chairman as well as the ESL dept. chairman. And it was one of the most relaxed interviews I have ever had. At the end of it, I was offered my choice of a position in the English dept. or I could stay in the position I was subbing in. The offers were for the full school year. I was elated but it only lasted a couple of days because I found out that because I hadn’t taken 6 units towards my teaching credential, the district wouldn’t renew my long-term substitute credential and I had to tell my students that I had to move on. My wife and I were planning on moving back to Oregon because we felt that it’d be a better environment for our son to grow up in and I had heard too many stories of teachers taking classes in one state and finding out that another state they had moved to wouldn’t recognize the classes completed in the previous state. Anyway, when I made my announcement to my classes, several of the girls started to cry and my eyes welled up too so I quickly left the room out of embarrassment. I threw a party the last day I was there and at one point, the students surrounded me and sang to me a song in Spanish. I couldn’t understand most of the words but I felt the love in their voices and their eyes. This was the greatest compliment I have ever received in my life! In any case, now I am ready to wind up this rather long-winded bragging session.

Often when I play Trivial Pursuit with friends, they accuse me of cheating i.e. of memorizing the answers. I tell them that even if that were the case, you’ve got to admit that’s pretty impressive. They ask me how I could possibly know some of the stuff that comes up in the game and I tell them it’s because of all the reading I have done. Which reminds me of another question friends have asked me from time to time i.e. why do you read all this serious stuff when you don’t have to do it for a class or anything and it doesn’t put money in your pocket? I try to explain to them the joy I feel in just learning things I’m interested in and they look at me often like I’m from some other planet or something. Jeri often used to refuse to play Trivial Pursuit when we’d go visit friends unless she could be on my team. I have also noticed that I often spot errors in textbooks, newspapers, magazines, books, etc. Several times as a substitute for a single day or a single class, I have had students say to me that they wished I was there regular teacher because I had been more helpful than their teacher or that they had learned more from me in one day than they had their teacher in several months. My friends up here in Portland have given me the nickname of ‘The Professor’ and they say it in a respectful tone because I usually have books with me and love to share passages with them that I think they might be intrigued by. I have made hundreds if not thousands of audio and videotapes of alternative media programs & some of the greatest thinkers alive such as Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Arundhati Roy, etc. I have also taped many old Twilight Zones and the original Star Trek series because I believe they would be excellent for stimulating classroom discussions about some of humanity’s most serious subjects e.g. love, hate, beauty, war, truth, etc. I am the eldest of all my first cousins and as we were growing up, it fell to me to protect them. I had many fights against sometimes 4 or 5 kids at the same time trying to defend my cousins. I took care of my brother and sisters because my mom raised us by herself and had to work two or three jobs sometimes. I started cooking for them when I was 12 years old, made them do their chores & homework, etc. Perhaps because of this, over the years, I’ve often had friends and even strangers at times, come to me for advice and sometimes tell me their deepest fears and secrets. I have printed thousands of pages of articles off the Internet on political, historical, philosophical, & other topics. I feel like a resource center and just look for opportunities to share what I have learned with others. I have also been collecting music since I was 12 years old.

To conclude, here is a quote from Professor Hofstadter, which captures better than anything I have ever come across, the distinction between being intelligent and being an intellectual. “Intelligence is an excellence of mind that is employed within a fairly narrow, immediate, and predictable range; it is a manipulative, adjustive, unfailingly practical quality—one of the most eminent and endearing of the animal virtues….Intellect, on the other hand, is the critical, creative, and contemplative side of mind. Whereas intelligence seeks to grasp, manipulate, re-order, adjust, intellect examines, ponders, wonders, theorizes, criticizes, imagines. Intelligence will seize the immediate meaning in a situation and evaluate it. Intellect evaluates evaluations, and looks for the meanings of situations as a whole. Intelligence can be praised as a quality in animals; intellect, being a unique manifestation of human dignity, is both praised and assailed as a quality in men.” Until I came across this passage, I never thought of there being any distinction between intelligence and intellect. But since I stumbled upon this passage, I have realized that I am indeed an intellectual. Note Hofstadter’s last sentence and the word ‘assailed,’ I can definitely testify to the truth of this statement. I left it out of my description of the two typical responses people have when they meet someone they think is smarter than they are because I didn’t want to sound too defensive or possibly paranoid. But since Hofstadter brought it up, I would like to add that yes indeed, I have had many experiences where people have leapt on me verbally in a vicious attack and even some guys who have attempted to physically intimidate me and even some who have physically threatened me because they felt threatened by what I was saying. I have learned a lot of stuff that most Americans are not aware of because they haven’t seen it on TV. or because the dirty deeds that America has done is not revealed in our public educational system. This is a fact and a president of the school district I went through middle & high school in, told me once in a matter of factly manner, ‘most people don’t go on to higher education and our government wants people to leave public school with a positive view of America.’ This was his response when I asked him why they lie to us in school about such things as the so-called ‘winning of the West.’

Sometimes when I’m turned down for a position I am applying for, the excuse I’m given is that I don’t have the specialized knowledge required for the position. And this mirrors the common advice given to students in school and by ‘career counselors’ i.e. specialize. Well, I couldn’t disagree more with this ‘wisdom.’ Specialization was for the Industrial Revolution but we are now well into the Knowledge Revolution where I.T.s are among those most in demand in corporate America. Oh, in case you don’t know what I.T.s are, it stands for Information Technicians. And many I.T.s have become consultants to corporations and they are hired on a contract basis to complete a specific project and then move on to other corporations. And this means that the traditional requirement of a ‘stable’ employment history is out the window. Yet many employers are still stuck in that traditional mode and view people like myself as unstable or flaky. In this new age, the deeper your knowledge and the greater the breadth of your knowledge, the more versatile you will be in this ever more rapidly changing work world. And the more versatile you are, the more valuable you will be to employers. I am reminded of a professor I had for a course titled ‘Business Law.’ He was a C.P.A. (Certified Public Accountant), a lawyer who specialized in business, and knew a lot about computers. He bragged that he made $1,000 per hour and I wondered why he then wasted his time teaching us in a lowly, community college & he told us that he was required to put in so many hours per year teaching in order to retain or keep current some of his licenses or credentials, I forget? So, I think the message is clear i.e. generalize, not specialize. And as Robert Heinlein, the famous science fiction writer put it, “Specialization is for ants.” And Buckminster Fuller, the creator of the geodesic dome and hundreds of other inventions also advised for us to generalize. ‘Bucky’ to his friends, was called the planet’s friendly genius & the modern day Leonardo da Vinci. He was awarded over 180 honorary doctorate degrees in his lifetime and Einstein said of him, “he’s one of the few who have truly understood my theory of relativity.” I had the great good fortune of seeing him deliver a talk at my college just a few months before he died and I couldn’t believe his energy level even though he was in his 80s. He was jumping up in the air and was full of vim and vinegar. Yep, I think I’ll stick with his advice and even though many employers are still stuck in the past, I will persevere!
–Rob DeLoss, March 6, 2006

22 replies
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      admin says:

      thank you again. I believe my RSS feed feature is now working? I love hearing from those who have read one of my posts because it makes me feel that I’m not alone in this chaotic world. Please keep on responding because I know that I don’t have the corner on the truth and this is just an open-ended conversation.

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    • admin
      admin says:

      and thank you for your feedback. I appreciate the honesty and yes, I do get off on a tangent sometimes in my writing. Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. I don’t claim to have the corner on truth but do come across as somewhat egotistical at times when I’m passionate about an issue. This piece was written when I was feeling a bit defensive after having been turned down for another job I’d applied for.

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    • admin
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      And I thank you for taking the time to comment and for your compliments. I don’t claim to have the truth but I have been looking for it all my life. I believe we are all much more qualified than we know and sadly, this system of ours mostly tells us what we aren’t rather than what we are or could be. Persevere!

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    • admin
      admin says:

      My ego thanks you for the kind words. I am simply another person searching for some semblance of truth, peace, & justice. I love communicating with others and searching together.

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    • admin
      admin says:

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