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Category: American Lives
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Last week, I posted a few oblique comments related to the perilous condition of education at our institutions of higher learning. The inspiration for my pessimism was the so-called Coyote Ugly Manifesto, an anonymous declaration of grievances emanating from a coterie of disgruntled Baylor law students.

The post in full here (scroll down for the "Manifesto").

The vital issue at the core of the relatively insignificant controversy is the changing culture of American education, which ultimately will determine who we will be as a people. My worst fear is that the local incident is symptomatic of a dangerous national trend. On the other hand, I can hope that the "Coyote Ugly" abomination is merely an aberration; I can certainly testify that those sour sentiments do not characterize the Baylor lawyers with whom I have been acquainted over time. In fact, much more representative of the spirit of Baylor Law is...

My favorite Baylor lawyer:

Portia, Baylor BA, 1998; Baylor JD, 2002.

Roots. Portia grew to maturity in a single-parent, working-class home in red-state America. She lived in a series of apartments, where she and her older sister shared a bedroom. Portia began working after school and on weekends when she was fifteen, earning spending money and enough extra cash for teenager essentials. She would not have a car of her own until she was twenty-one, when she could contract for one with her own money and credit. Early in her life, her mother often worked overnight shifts at the hospital as a phlebotomist, and Portia's extended family became important caretakers and role models. The village proved instrumental in raising the child.

Education. In public school, she found a welcomed venue to demonstrate her exceptional talents. Nevertheless, from K-through-college, she felt intense pressure to make grades; she was working without a net. Good marks meant better schools, which would mean a good college, which meant a good law school, which meant a better life and more opportunity. Failure at any level equaled unwanted additional limits to who she wanted to be. She went to every class; she did her homework every night; she aced every test. She made her way to Baylor, where she fell in love (first with the institution and later with an extremely fortunate history grad student). She completed her BA in history in four years, working part time during the school year, fulltime during the summers. But she will tell you that the most important thing she learned at Baylor was how little she knew.

Not surprisingly, when she matriculated at Baylor Law School, she did not complain about the work load. She was wise enough to understand that her opportunity to learn was golden and much more than she had a right to expect. One of her profs would later describe Portia as a student willing to receive instruction rather than argue that her untaught instincts were correct.

A young married woman, she began her tenure as a law student with a three-month-old infant. As a third year, expecting another child, she did not ask for special consideration, save for the opportunity to take two final exams a few days early. She had not complained the day her PC prof kept her standing at her seat for most of the hour. She was not "offended;" she saw no malice in the encounter. To the contrary, she valued that moment immensely and understood completely why that brand of equality was essential to her experience. She scheduled the birth of her second son two days after completing the winter quarter and Practice Court II.

What did Baylor Law School produce? Although she did not lose any of her humanity (some of her admirers might call it her "sweetness"), Portia emerged a force. She understood the value of hard work, accuracy and personal responsibility. She learned to speak softly and carry a big stick. Pity the less savvy observer who commits the fatal error of underestimating her fire and ability. Woe to the unthinking boob who crosses her or attacks some less-equipped person under her protection. Her causes are generally not flashy--but they are always worthy, and they enjoy a skilled and vigorous advocate.

Baylor Law School cannot claim complete authorship of Portia. In addition to her will to succeed, much of who she became was the product of good fortune and sacrifices and encouragement from a host of important loving influences in her life. However, the rigor, discipline and tradition of Baylor Law School provided an essential component in the formation of her character. If we as a people are to survive the horrific hurdles that our future holds, we must eschew the temptations of therapeutic education and commit ourselves to strenuous learning and the yield it produces. We need more Portia's and far fewer "Coyote Ugly" bomb throwers.
My grandfather Taylor always referred to November 11 as Armistice Day. He had fought in Europe in WW1, one of the thousands and thousands of young men dislocated from their farms and dispatched to France.

Born in 1896 in the house built by his father, who had homesteaded 80 acres of north Missouri prairie, my grandfather's early life took place a few miles from home: the country school a mile and a quarter south down the dirt road that ran in front of the house; his parent's Primitive Baptist church about 4 and 1/2 miles north and west; the local Methodist church with its revivals and suppers less than a mile away; the nearest train station about six miles distant; a country store about a mile and a 1/2 west; and the county seat 10 miles away. No radio. All national and international events were old news by the time they reached the community. Then, with the entry of the United States into the Great War, my grandfather and those like him moved into military life, and were transported to France. I can't imagine the culture shock or sense of displacement those young men experienced.

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