Larry Elder

I got an F on my first test. This was followed by more F's and D's. There was a lot of oral class participation, and the teacher and students were patient as I butchered the language. They felt sorry for me.

The final exam, which accounted for most of the grade, was a written book report on Don Quixote -- also to be given orally, without notes, while standing in front of the class. Holy bleep!

I busted my butt, worked my way through the book, and wrote and memorized my presentation. I checked and rechecked my report. Then I practiced it in front of the bathroom mirror. Never had I worked as hard on anything in school. I vowed not to be embarrassed.

I spoke third. After each student spoke, the no-nonsense teacher immediately critiqued the speech, corrected grammar and syntax, and offered ways to improve.

My turn. The walk to the front of the class took forever. "I'll show them," I said over and over. I cleared my throat and let it rip. I knew I had rocked when, after I finished, no one said anything, not even the teacher. Who was that fluent guy in Larry's body?

"Bien, senor Elder," the teacher finally said. "Muy bien."

I told my mom what happened. She didn't use the word "voucher," but she wondered why parents couldn't choose the school to which they send their kids, rather than the one -- good or bad -- that happens to be the closest.

"Doesn't seem right," said Mom. My Fairfax experience, she said, "shows what happens when kids are pushed. I can't do anything about this. But maybe someday you can."

Hopefully, I just did.


Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com.