Class rings with armored vehicles and Zippy the Pinhead

My sister, a public school teacher in Tennessee, recently linked two articles on Facebook. Her FB linking is usually about recipes and photography.1 The two recent links, however, were not about squash casserole or pictures of squash casserole. Instead one was a New York Timesarticle about Department of Defense Schools (DODS) outperforming public schools on both reading and math tests for fourth and eighth graders. The other was a blog post analyzing this article in a very sympathetic manner.2

These articles are obviously important to her as a public school educator, but they are also important to her because she is the complete DODS package. My sister never attended public school other than DODS schools, except for a few short periods when our Dad was deployed.3 She graduated from Fort Knox High School and her class ring has a tank on it.4

I am somewhat of a DODS product. I attended kindergarten through seventh grade in DODS. Kindergarten through the third grade was in Germany. My fourth and fifth grades were spent in the elementary school that sat beside my sister’s high school at Fort Knox, Kentucky. My first two years of middle school was spent once again in Germany. My Dad retired at the end of my seventh grade year, so unfortunately I was not afforded the opportunity to have a high school class ring emblazoned with a tank, or a bayonet, or an assault rifle, or some other war machine.5 After the seventh grade, my tenure in DODS ended, and from there on out I attended Tennessee public schools.6

I find it difficult to juxtapose my DODS education with my Tennessee public school education… basically I haven’t thought hard enough to consider the differences. Obviously my early childhood education is a distant fog, but since I graduated high school I assume I must have gotten some decent learning then. In reality, I can list my DODS education memories in a fairly short manner:

– I walked to kindergarten with my “girlfriend” Jolene, who I believe was from Guam or the Philippines.

– My 2nd grade class watched a documentary on climbing Mount Everest. 

– Mrs. Ball, my 3rd or 4th grade teacher, was a former nun.

– My sister’s high school boyfriend made me a bitchin’ Halloween costume (robot) that I wore in my 5th grade class’ Halloween parade.7

– I read a lot of Encyclopedia Brown books.8

– My 6th grade’s physical education class in the Winter was ice skating at a local German rink.

– All my classes were racially and religiously integrated.9

– I saw hashish on my Frankfurt American Junior High school bus.

– My junior high got real bomb threats… the terrorist kind.10

– My 7th grade sex ed class involved a detailed discussion on masturbation and the female process of menstruation.11

– I had a 7th grade teacher who wore a Zippy the Pinhead t-shirt once a week.12

The individual and unique educational experiences of a single Army brat does not add anything to the discussion about DODS students outperforming public school kids. It does, however, allow me to think back on a time when driving to BENELUX (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxemburg) were a weekend event and attending Christkindlmarkts were a holiday tradition. If nothing else, being the product of DODS allowed me to see the world as the wonderful and intriguing place it is at an early age.

1 If you didn’t know her, you would assume she was an obese photophile. That would be only a half truth, in reality she is a thin photophile. If you want to see amazing pictures of squash and sweet potatoes add her as a FB friend.

2 I am now joining this “hotly” analyzed discussion with my own worthless ramblings.

3 Our Dad served in the US Army from 1957 to 1983.

4 I have no idea if Jostens offers this type of engraving to any high school other than FKHS. I’m also pretty sure she is very proud of her tank ring.

5 I graduated, in 1988, from Lincoln County (Tennessee) High School and instead of a tank, I have a falcon (bird of prey) on my class ring. I have no fucking idea where my class ring is.

6 This allows me to say during briefings, conversations, and presentations “slow down, I am a product of Tennessee public education and I need you to talk slower… and use smaller words.” Needless to say, when my sister hears me say this, she gets pissed.

7 Okay, this costume was a collection of boxes covered in aluminum foil… which did not make it bitchin’, what made it bitchin’ was the transistor radio that my sister’s boyfriend built into the “head”… I sounded like a walking boom box blaring horrible static… I may still have hearing loss due to this awesome display of high school boy inventiveness. Additionally, my family still laughs when we see the pictures of me in this costume because: A) the robot’s (my) head is off-center and makes me looking extremely goofy, and B) it reminds everyone on how I couldn’t keep up with the other kids in the parade because I had cardboard tubes over my legs… there is no fucking way one can walk quickly without bending their knees.

8 I don’t know if this was school or home related reading, but my memories tell me it was school related.

9 My first girlfriend, one that I actually called my “girlfriend” … unlike Jolene who my mother calls my “first girlfriend” … was African-American but I never kissed her (I was in that stage where I called someone my “girlfriend” but experienced no girlfriend-having activities like kissing). Additionally, if you look at my 7th grade Frankfurt, Germany, American Junior High yearbook you will see a wonderful hodge podge of names, colors, and races. Not only were the military members integrated, but their children were completely integrated both educationally and socially. This integrated educational experience was not replicated much once I entered Tennessee public schools. 1980s Tennessee was not as demographically diverse as the US military and its schools reflected it.

10 Terrorism in the pre-9/11 era wasn’t something Americans really knew or understood unless they were in military (or State Department). I can remember my mother calling the military police because there was an odd box by a trash can in our American housing area in Bad Nauheim, Germany… I think she thought it was a bomb. On a totally unrelated point, my mother once got us caught (in our giant ass Chevy Caprice wagon) in an Anti-American/Nuke protest in downtown Frankfurt… she swore me to silence because she didn’t want my Dad to know. I believe the statute of limitations has been lifted.

11 I always question my public school educated friends if they got information on masturbation in their sex ed class. Some have never had a sex ed class, and the ones who did respond in the negative. Rock on DODS, Rock on!

12 Seems a lot of DODS teachers were, or had been, hippies. I know, the irony of having hippies instruct the children of the bastion of conservatism is funny.

NOTE: According to my mother, following her reading of this post… Jolene was Hawaiian, it was not a cardboard box that made my mother go into terrorism prevention mode… it was a missing fire extinguisher which was supposedly a common 1980s terrorism bomb casing, and as far as protests go… her exact words were “… you were not hurt when we got in the protest. We went down a one way street the wrong way to get out of it.” See, even my mom is willing to break the law to protect her young.


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