Skip Blunt and Jeff Blunt

Recorded April 21, 2007 Archived April 21, 2007 36:10 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBY002679


A man speaks to his father about his 36-year career as a teacher.

Subject Log / Time Code


  • Skip Blunt
  • Jeff Blunt


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00:06 I'm Jeff blunt. I'm 38 years old today is April 21st 2007 in Kalamazoo, Michigan interviewing. My father's get blunt.

00:17 I'm Lewis blunt better known as skip let's I'm 65 years old today is the 21st of April and we're in Kalamazoo and my being interviewed by my son Jeff.

00:31 I'm not really sure how to get started. So what kind of just Dive Right In I want to ask you a little about your personal life in history. But what I really want to focus our time on is your years teaching. Okay, then you know the first time I want to see a little bit little bit about your life of the father and of the husband so start with some easy personal stuff. What year were you born? And where was born in 1942 in Sarnia, Ontario? And which is right across the border from Port Huron Michigan my parents were there living there for business reasons that are American citizens of the time.

01:07 You lived in a lot of places in the kid. Where do you consider yourself from?

01:12 Text the kid. I usually answer that question when people ask a guy says the Northeast United States of Southeast Canada because I was born in Sarnia. I've had lived in Toronto. I've lived in Quebec. I've lived in that Litchfield Connecticut. I've lived in Pennsylvania, and I've lived in Port Huron and lived in Ohio Regional guy who most influenced the man. You became.

01:37 Oh hard to say Obviously my parents were a big portion of it. But I also my parents are divorced relatively relatively early in my life and my uncles had a big influence on me. And for a while. I would work Marine construction as a young teenager and young man and the great lakes and I had an uncle hahaha Jerry Lakers or the time and he and some members was crew kind of taught me the major aspect of life the reality of life and reconstruction business.

02:15 You're a well-documented liberal. Were you always?

02:22 I think so. I think I always was so I remember it when I was growing up before the race was a relatively big issue and I'm her my father grew up by relatively wealthy and he had a nanny who was the concept of a black lady taking care of him as a nanny was pretty well-established. And from that I think he developed the concept that there were no differences in race and so far that fun memories of her and so whenever the thing came up, but you didn't come up for coffee, but whenever came up I was always told that there were no differences really.

03:04 You are in college at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio from 1960 to 1964, The very early stages of the Vietnam War. What impact do you think attending college at that time had on your life?

03:20 How the Vietnam War was a quite a

03:24 Problem for the nation as a whole one of the things that I always felt was it if I was going to be drafted I would go to the war and when I was in college, I was signed up for the Air Force ROTC been because it didn't have a Navy ROTC the time at that do University and we were reluctant to walk across campus with our uniforms on at the time. And so that was kind of a problem for me but even is going up now my my little Tennessee's may be questioned the war a lot other I never did get involved in the radical movements of the war. But I did come to the conclusion that there was a mistake that we shouldn't have been there and I had several professors who some of them involved in the post-world War II action with the Japan helping set up a Japanese Constitution that had some interesting takes on it was led me to believe that the war was not

04:25 The appropriate are you active in the debate or was it a quiet? I was active in the debate, but I wasn't active in the bait the classrooms and things like that, but not publicly not the protesters. I'll let you get involved one protest at nothing to do with the Vietnam War have to do with a thing called them St. Patty's Day Saint Patty's Day in Ohio University was a big drinking thing and at the time and you're for it or against it remember it was a teenager right as a freshman and we had a new professor. I mean a new president of the University one of the Mind mind mind.

05:19 Trust for the Kennedy administration Dr. Alden and he decided this school was not going to be a party school anymore and wanted to be bring it up a little bit. That's what you were to Saint Patty's Day in a bunch of us went down there to see what was going on and was quite amazing because I was taking some of Psych courses the time and suddenly I found myself at the bystander. I was just to go down and see what's going on with you for taking the in the stock but not ask to get involved and next thing I knew was sitting in the middle of street and there were cops running down the street from all four corners at us and my friend and I had to force her way out of that, but I couldn't believe how easily I got involved in a situation like that. There was a the mob mentality surprise me.

06:12 What it what do you think how did attending college at that time of a nation's history impacts you are the teacher.

06:21 Well, I get a lot of tolerance for different ideas and

06:27 The concept of you have to discuss these things out I think lack of the thought that the only just because you think you're right doesn't mean you're right. I think that a lot of a lot of it back to as opposed to some other stuff received today where people seem to feel the right to pack with the rest of them teaching in 1960s distract and you talked to 2,000. I'm all but one of them at Livonia Stevenson High School, correct?

06:59 When and why did you decide to be a teacher?

07:03 Well that had a lot to do with my wife originally was in the School of Business and one day I was talking to her about it and I just said, you know, I just don't like those people the people I was dealing with in the Beatitudes and so forth. This didn't fit me and I always so upset about that because my parents were involved in business and I thought that's good spot for me to be in and I just wasn't comfortable and she made the comment she was in the school of education so you can, why don't you be a teacher and I never thought about that before I never thought about being a teacher and I thought how I know and I'll do it teacher going to school and being a school a time later. You know, if I'm going to be a teacher I probably should be a teacher of politics of government because I was always very interested in that field. And so I typed explored it and decided maybe that's not a bad idea, you know.

08:03 The teaching is a good profession that say you're doing good for the community and all those kinds of things and it's got great vacations doesn't make a great deal of money. But the money is not bad. It's right good middle-class types type living in so it seemed attracted to me this time. You think I'm joking, that stuck with me as years ago when you put may not even remember it but it's stuck with me cuz I'm not sure you were joking about it. You said that you said if there's a heaven my years as a teacher or my ticket in can I eat chocolate? Give me another joke tell me about that sentiment well as cinnamon wasn't so much my ticket in but was a fact that I'm giving back to the community that the teaching was something that you're doing. That's good for the site that is good for you not just good for your company or business, but you're actually trying to improve Society giving something back and has a teacher I felt

09:02 Important that I felt as a teacher I am doing that as long as I see that that help me stay true to my philosophy of teaching and all that kind of stuff and it's possibly of them doing good that the kidneys I'm training these kids for their life job. And even though they may hate me now or something like that whatever I can impart to them and work ethic and and trying to get things done correctly and do things right that that will be affecting future generations. And so looking back over all yours is a teacher at night after you answer this with honesty and without modesty. What grade would you give yourself for the teacher?

09:41 Well, I would like to think I would get an A but I'm not I'm sure it's probably more like a B. I think you're doing good. And you try to do good and so forth, but they were better teachers than I was there. They were some. That was for not as good but I think Bebe plus I know that they were many several. I just all teachers have this but kids are came back after afterwards who had give me grief what I was in school and whenever they're in school I should say and they came back later and thank me for what it was I had done for them that they had remembered things that I had done and it stuck with them. And so

10:29 You talked for about 33 years for the high school teacher by my rough estimation and in talking to some other folks you taught about 10,000 students in those years and it occurs to me that you know, only a very small percentage of people in the world can have that direct of an influence on such a staggering number of lives. What goes through your head when you when you consider that?

10:52 I hope I did it. Well, yeah, it's your right. That's it goes back to what we said before that you do have a chance to affect the future. You have a chance to affect people's lives in ways. They're not even sure there.

11:06 They're aware of the time. They don't think it's important the time but later on it is and hoping you're making the country better making Humanity better making the world better. You spent a lot of years teaching in a program called Global education. I distinctly remember from my childhood that you were very enthusiastic and proud about that program. What is it not to get started. Well, I am very proud of my experience over education. Probably the highlight of my educational career.

11:36 Say the question again.

11:39 How did you get started in and log it got started? I had a friend of mine and it's cool. Dr. Jonathan Swift who was a major figure in that Global education movement. As matter fact, he was at one time was head of the American Association of English teachers, and he talked the government is supporting this program and I are Program start out being totally supported by the US government as a seed money to get this thing started and popularized the concept and so we got to do it and then we were trying to adapt to try to adapt all the subjects in school to a global Concepts deliver not teaching just about United States and just about what I called you about it you at all cultures in the end putting all this normal.

12:33 Courses that kids take but pretty in the global context and my Nest we were doing and that's basically how it got started and I got involved because he was complaining to me one day when this first in your class that came through with the funny one day about the teacher that they had had roped into doing this. He didn't really have a choice and he wasn't very enthusiastic about it and I'll try to give John some suggestions about what he can do to help the situation along from a standpoint of another government teacher and this is the two days before the class started and why don't you do it. I said see that money ski club now and I've started this new course called the law and society and I don't know how to take off and so far that he just twisted my arm. And so I said, okay you can do it and so I did and have all the things that I got involved in.

13:33 I would last the longest and I was a lot of fun. We did a lot of work with the model United Nations program and stuff like that. And a lot of kids we have kids that graduate from a program that ended up being an international business and things like that. Then it was

13:50 Was interesting tell me about the travel portion of the things we tried to do what they have trips every year to someplace. Some of the travel was big trips like the China things like that artist, Australia and New Zealand that took me almost a month each of those but in between times he had short trips. So we had chips to Quebec City things like that that would take less money and the kids had to work and earn credits and so forth to help pay for these trips to chips or not paid for by the school paper about the parents, but we had a big deal about having the kids work to earn the money for it. And so we traveled most of Europe off. I mean obviously not every kid but over the years we traveled to most countries in Europe. We had a chance to get to Berlin before the Wall came down.

14:48 And then wants after the wall came down fascinating and we

14:53 Travel to say to China we travel to Australia New Zealand. What did that do for the kids? What was the unique educational? It was fantastic we were in

15:07 He had enough Florence Italy and I one of the Philosopher's iced tea spot. One thing I had the opportunity was I thought the government has a year-long course rather than just a semester course. That's all I was able to get into play philosophy and things like that and one of the kids that I'm more than one of the kids we're looking at tombs in the in the cathedral there and Florence one of the kids to bring my slime is 12 months. What what is that Machiavelli?

15:41 Import important to me

15:53 Yeah.

15:54 I understand.

15:57 What's meaningful?

16:04 And they really do really but they didn't they really understood it. I remember talking about other schools and other school systems would come to look at this program has because of its bright uniqueness and success schools copy that program not exactly the way we had done it. A lot of other schools started full-blood programs allowed to go up a program through started as supplementary courses courses are after-school some of her after-school stuff by Nations concept, which is older than the globe LED concept by the way, but the den mini the schools began courses that dealt only with one topic matter fact, we did two weeks. We try to incorporate Math and Science and so forth into the Cove LED concept, but Staffing Us. Portland,

17:04 Stop you got a really you have a staff at big on it and we ended up being English. The social studies was what we end up with is the major Mobley courses and language Department.

17:16 You taught through something you taught unique subject politics and government. Yes threesome. Incredibly turbulent times at the end of the twentieth century. Are there any difficulty Stand Out is uniquely educational and how did you handle them in the classroom?

17:32 Oh.

17:34 I don't know. What's what's what's things. I mean when you talk to the fall of Saigon, they radian hostage crisis glass nosed, you know Tiananmen Square of any particular standout perhaps that with histories perspective you like to go back and teach differently.

17:51 Oh, I don't know. I don't know that you want to teach him differently. We didn't actually those things we you were able to actually teach you simply want things. I did in the classes. I have this discussion of current events. And sometimes the current events was supposed to be just one day. Sometimes it took more than one day because of all the things like tenement square and things like that were big big issues and the opportunity to question the democracies and question the what was going on is good or wrong or is it state that much difference those kinds of things were able to deal with in those situations, but you can't

18:37 Teach that stuff. You can't plan for that sort of thing. You just have to take advantage of it when it's there and the so that's what we did. Then that's one thing I miss in the classroom whenever big things happen in the news and so forth. I really miss not being in the classroom to be able to discuss that with the kids and get their thoughts and feelings and discussions about it. I distinctly remember I was I was young at the time but I remember one thing that you were incredibly excited about and that was when you're at one of the model un's with your kids and the Falklands Islands incident tell me about what happened and how that why that was so special special because we had a we actually had the British delegation of time and one of my students we call those delegations many other important country call the power delegations and we pull together some of our best students into those delegations.

19:33 With love other delegations to they weren't so important but as it turned out we had one of Howard allegations which is true of the security Council country in this case was Great Britain high school kids and soap the Falkland Islands think broke. We were in London Canada the time for the convention and saw the local news had done a story about all these high school kids multi from the United States Bassam from Ontario is well being there for this Model United Nations. Will then the next day the Falkland Islands broke believe that what a great idea. Let's go talk to the British delegation of kids and see what they have to say. So they came to talk to her kids and one of the kids that had Delegate for Britain did the interview

20:23 And they were asking her. What should what is Britain going to do what she had to speak as if she was the British government talking and so she came up with a plan. She said this is what we're going to do. What was with meaning was this is what we're going to do here in the in the convention.

20:41 The very next day

20:43 Britain announced but they were going to do about Falkland Islands and it turned out to be almost exactly what she said. Ooh, so we are pretty please do that her preparation so far the work so well, I remember you came back from that and oh, yeah weeks every day. They related dinner. What was your greatest failure as a teacher?

21:07 The students who were not a highly motivated or what not not a highly motivated motivation for school who didn't want to study who didn't care about school didn't care about education whatsoever. I had a very difficult time dealing with them movie called them. They government are kids in this case cuz I was thinking Cup in or the history are kid. We are good for remedial but it wasn't necessarily the kids that were mentally deficient. That was it that those days we didn't have the special ed that we have today that work with those kids. They were often in another school or something but basically mentally unchallenged they they had the brains is over. They didn't care and I have found it extremely difficult to get to those kids. Remember one time. We haven't even called in a specialist to help us out and

22:04 Then some of the kids were

22:07 Below-normal mental ability but basically around the normal thing and he said to my partner and I said, you know, the problem is not the kids said to you. You just have to lower your expectations and I had a very hard time with that and so in my ability to deal with those kids with my failure II normal kids and above-average kitchen table. I should say especially hard work I could work with but the kids that weren't motivated at all just didn't care. I had a very difficult time with that. I felt that I should have been able to do better or what was your single proudest moment is a teacher.

22:50 Call single proudest moment of teacher.

22:54 You know what? I might have been when I left.

22:57 Because the kids always give me a hard time about migrating policies because I was pretty pretty pretty tough on them demanded. They do the job and do it. Right and I left the middle of the year when I was went on to become of the technology specialist in the system. And these are the kids having for one semester so far and they they were give me grief about leaving leaving the middle the year and I said, you've been complaining to me all this time about the Greys about my policy so so forth and now all the sudden you're saying I shouldn't be leaving and they said we got used to you we understand you and so that was good. And another point was when I had a student who was

23:50 Talking about the class in jennylyn and it was kind of like the class is upset with something like that was doing it so forth and they said, you know, every time I worked about other teachers as well. I don't know how they kind of came to this but they said that I was tough. They said you were your heart you're too tough. You make this work hard. So the picture Fair

24:09 And that

24:11 That was a problem. Now. I've heard a lot of teachers Piggly retired teachers or older teachers say that and given the atmosphere surrounding education today that they wouldn't go into teaching. How would you advise someone you love to go into teaching today in 2007?

24:30 Well teaching I don't like teaches much fun today as it used to be because we have a lot more freedom as well. We wanted to teach how to teach it the testing situation. Now, they got the standardized testing situation has changed the playing field little bit and so from that standpoint, it's not as much fun. But I think in terms of feeling like you're making a contribution and and job satisfaction, you can't beat it. It's a lot of job satisfaction to helping kids.

25:08 What makes a good teacher?

25:11 Caring

25:12 Carrie about the kids but not just caring about the kids themselves caring about their future.

25:17 So another words if you'd like kids that's important. You have to like kids.

25:23 But if you like them to the point where you say while I want to be your friend, I want to be you know, I want them to like me and that's not going to work because you're not going to help your future. You just going to try to get some easy grade not care about what they end up as so what you have to do is yet and you have to have a real clear idea about what you want these people to be like in the future and then stick to that. Could you keep that in mind? You can be a good teacher if you really like it and you have to like your subject yesterday excited about your septic. I was the one thing that some people have say. Bye to the philosopher lectures quite a bit when I was doing well, but it would be a comment to me about how enthusiastic I was about these lectures and they know I've given them a hundred times but as a teacher, you've got to be enthusiastic about what you're doing if you don't like it.

26:23 It's not going to work. You got to really like your subject in like what you doing and like kids.

26:28 Other than the absence of those characteristics, what's a common? What are common characteristics of mine Bad Teachers?

26:37 People got an education

26:40 Because for reasons other than the reasons I said you have to be there there people began education because it's relatively easy they think to do it and they they like the vacation being there for the vacations and they're the subject has minor. They really don't like kids and those things make for bad teachers teachers don't care to be a good teacher. You've got a care. I hear you say that I hear a lot of people say Mana be great to be a teacher. I'm done with work at 3 everyday. I got 3 months off 2 weeks at Christmas don't you believe it? I I quickly dissuade them of those sentiments, but give me 30 seconds on your thoughts there. It doesn't work that way if that's what you doing as a teacher. You're not doing the job. There's a lot of evening work by the one nice thing about education is you do get that nice big summer vacation, which is

27:40 Pretty good, but the rest of vacation is Russ the time you're grading papers. If you're not grading a lot of papers, if you're not reading a lot of essays and things like that, you're probably not doing the chat. I work in the business world and I liken it to having to prepare an eight-hour presentation to the board of directors everyday and when I put it in those terms for people that you begin to understand what kind of preparation it takes to take kids every single day through a journey into something new that always always strapped with me.

28:15 This interview is going to be archived in the Library of Congress. If someone read this 250 years from now and and wants to know about teaching in the late 20th century.

28:24 What are they need to know?

28:27 I need to know.

28:32 I guess it depends on what the teacher is like at that time, but I can't imagine a whole lot different you got to reach them the minds of the kids. He got taken where they are and then move them from their forward you get a whole lot of different kinds of different personalities and different places in the continuing education and you got to deal with all those at the same time. I think that's a real challenge of the real challenges of teaching today.

29:03 It's a it's a person-to-person job and you can't hide and I don't know if it's going to be possible in the future not with with the distance education concept or the teachers in one place in the kids are someplace else but in the 20 Century, it's a person-to-person face-to-face job.

29:25 I want to take a little bit different tack now and focus on fatherhood because despite my convictions of the opposite of a seventeen-year-old eventually did grow up and realize what an incredible father you were to me. What is a good father?

29:44 Good father

29:48 You again? He'd all you got to care. You got a gig that's a major piece of my life, I guess and you've got to have fun because I enjoy the kids and you got to give them time. That's one nice to go up in your teacher was I did have some of Summer's and so forth where I can really give the time to my kids that's important to the absent father who's out making the money and not being part of his kid's life but doing the job because he's providing is okay in the providers inside, but it's not very good in the father side. He got to be involved is my son your grandson case. He has grown I really began to believe that the principal role of a father is that of teacher and as you've been telling me about your life the teacher it struck me how many times those principal scene to applied?

30:41 To being a father. Do you think being a teacher made you a better father? Absolutely. Absolutely. Just Awaken me. So the whole concept of the fact that you just fathers are teachers and that they may be more aware of children as people rather than just as young adults her smaller adults that they are different and plus you you're probably at the end of packed uniqueness so that I did not see you and your brother is just two of the same thing. I can tell you as the son of a teacher it did necessarily benefit me that you knew all of my teachers.

31:29 I realized that I spend a lot of time now as a father trying to live up to the standard you set but your parents divorced when you were young and you live with your mother most of your especially the second half of your childhood who shaped your father and skills. I'm guessing it's hard to say. It's try to psychoanalyze myself, but I'm guessing a lot of was a combination of people one of the things that I was into that by choice, but we wanted growing up I would because my father was relatively wealthy are we weren't but he was his family was I went to let boarding schools and I think some of the the role models that I used some of the teachers that I had in those boarding schools where we were with them.

32:21 Twenty-four hours a day and especially at the school called North Country School in Lake Placid New York or some really great teachers. I think that influence me a lot.

32:33 Your passions always been sailing whenever you and I still together you seem content and happy like a man truly in his element yet know you probably could have afforded it. You never once owned a true sailboat Beyond a little 15f daysailer, which is to me I can do an audit an auto racing enthusiasts never anything more than a VW Bug. This is because the money for a true ceiling yet on a teacher salary would have come to a large degree at the expense of things your wife and kids wanted and needed. Does it feel like a sacrifice to you?

33:06 No, not really. I mean you always have these dreams that you want and part of growing up as understanding that some of those dreams are just dreams that you can't always get everything you want but I have to compartmentalize and decide which ones you really going to go out or not and having a family and having two kids like I had with you guys and the what great kids you were going so quick compensated for the fact that I wasn't able to have that big sailboat that the Health Alliance one of them sailing enthusiasm to you and your brother saw that was that's kind of part of it this sacrifice inherent and being a good father. Yes.

33:51 Yes, you get you do you but it is not really sacrifice sacrifices. When you give up something you really want and you feel a loss if your father and you feel a lost then something's wrong. But the my case I have the compensation for giving up was made it so easy to do.

34:12 We've got about two. It's just a few minutes left.

34:18 Is there anything you want to ask me?

34:21 I wasn't prepared remember what we came to this thing. I was kind of surprised to me which is where you wanted it. So that's good, but you don't have no not because you're probably are but I just haven't thought of it. But I do want to say that I am extremely proud of the way you turned out.

34:44 That's mostly questions. I had but I want to take a minute window to myself until you on the record. How proud I am of you and the way you've lived your life the way you conduct yourself as a man and a husband and a father in the way. You taught me and my brother Josh by giving us an unbending example of what a father should be what a man should be but I'm equally proud and maybe even some ways more proud of the way you devoted your life to imparting knowledge on thousands of kids that are now adults out in the world contributing to society when I was in college right here in Kalamazoo at Western Michigan. In fact, I'm at dozens of kids that went to Livonia Stevenson and had you as a father and almost almost every single one of them told me two things one that you were the toughest son of a bitch teacher that I had.

35:33 And to they that either you were their favorite teacher or you were part of the reason why they're able to get through college from the things they learned that you know that I think that's the point that for me. I really didn't realize what kind of person I was lucky enough to have as a father and I'll be half of them in myself. Thank you for 33 years of teaching 30 years of the father and I thank you for letting me interview today. Thank you. That's great.