By Kevin Wilson
Freshman year. My instructor came in with a somber look on her face. Either somebody died, or a TV series got canceled.
“Before we begin today’s scheduled lesson, I think I need to emphasize the need to read the material I assign you. I’ve suspected that you weren’t doing that, and the class grades from our most recent exam are evidence to that. To encourage you to read the material, we’re instituting a series of pop quizzes. The first one is now.
Please clear your desks.”
I had not read the material, because we always discussed things in class. Still, I thought I’d sail through this one.
“Name three rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.” Press, speech, and let’s go fancy with peaceable assembly.
“A president elected at the general election in November takes office the following year on what date?” January … 15???
“The Constitution limits the District of Columbia to …” Three electoral votes?
After seven more questions, we passed the test to our neighbors for grading.
“The three rights are free speech, freedom of religion and freedom of the press.”
I raised my hand, knowing I’d get a “Good one” answer. She stared coldly and said, “There are no questions.”
My hand retreated.
I’d gotten my test back with a 70. “Whew,” I thought, “Cs get degrees.”
]Until the professor said, “If you missed one, you flunked.”
The class absolutely flipped out for five seconds, until the instructor burst into laughter. “Oh, I’m the funniest teacher ever.”
Sue Strickler was having fun, but she was teaching us about an important time in American government. The questions she gave us were from a literacy poll that was advertised as defending the vote, but really about keeping a certain population from heading to the polls. She said she does it every year, and she always gets everybody, but said she almost lost it on my hand slinking back to my desk.
The test never went on our grades, but the lesson held firm and the class was entertaining. Just like it was entertaining when she told us she was a “creative speller,” and that she kept brownie points and demerits. She wasn’t lying on either; pointing that out goes as my last demerit.
I took other classes from her, including a class where we used a stats program called SPSS that she named,
“Sure Pretty Sue Strickler.” We’d discuss many issues of the day, and the debates would get heated. But I’d find out later Strickler often argued a point she didn’t hold just to keep the debate invigorating. It’s refreshing to remember that in an era where everybody with a Facebook account is a pundit.
There won’t be a test next year, and the list will be retired. Strickler is one of many employees of Eastern New Mexico University retiring this year.
Her test won’t be missed, but she will. There’s my last brownie point.
Kevin Wilson is a staff writer. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 319, or by email: