Bad grade was a wake-up call

To the editor:

I won’t vouch for everything Bob Seidenstein puts in his columns (I’m not sure even Bob would do that), but I can confirm that he has a deep love of words and their history. I discovered this when we ran into each other once on Baker Mountain. We got to talking, the conversation drifted, and soon I found myself listening to a learned discourse on etymology.

Bob’s column about his school days reminded me of my own misadventures in education. I remember, for instance, that when I started my senior year in high school, I decided I would not do any of the reading in English class. We were supposed to be reading Homer, which I knew a priori would be deadly stuff. I was so indifferent I didn’t even bother bringing my book to class. I got a 47 that semester.

That ludicrous grade so shook me up that I nearly doubled it the next semester and remained a good student for the rest of year. We read some great books. I was especially captivated by Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” and Camus’ “The Stranger.” I became an avid reader for many, many years. Then the Internet happened.

Bob is right that teachers can have a great influence on one’s life, sometimes in unexpected ways. If I had got a 70, say, instead of a 47 that semester, I might not have been so scared of failing or become so studious. I might not have developed an interest in writing and journalism. And I might not now be looking at a bookshelf with three translations of Homer.

Phil Brown

Saranac Lake