January 22, 2018
My mother knew how to do voodoo. Billye Faye Vanderslice Watson wanted my brother and me to go to Baylor University from the time we were pretty young. I remember her mentioning Baylor to me—seeding it in my hand—as early as the 6th grade. I’d never heard of that place.
I started high school debate as a freshman and, every summer, I went to the Baylor debate camps and lived in the dorms. By this time, we’d all uniformly concluded that my singular life skill was talking a bunch. So we asked lawyers about where an opinionated, loquacious, smart-aleck young man should go to law school if he wanted to end up in the courtroom—as a lawyer, not as a defendant. The consistent answer was Baylor Law School.
So there was really only one choice when it came time to apply to a college. Same for Kyle, my brother. Billye Faye’s motherly magic and life management made the whole thing happen. There’s no question in my mind.
A very nice honor
I think she’d have been proud this past Saturday night. The Baylor Line Foundation, which is what Baylor people call the alumni association, gave me a Distinguished Alumni Award.
It was a neat deal. And I’m very honored. It’s really something special to have people who support an institution that’s been a part of your life — for really all of your life — say that they’re proud of you and that you’ve brought distinction to a school they love.
An Excellent Teacher
Natalie Fontenot, a U.S. history teacher at Reagan Early College High School in Austin ISD, received a pretty great honor as well. Humanities Texas gave her the 2017 Award for Outstanding Early-Career Teaching.
She’s a wonderful example of the smart and dedicated public school teachers that serve and support the children of Texas every day, and I was pleased to be there for the recognition last week.
As I prepared to talk at the event, some of Natalie’s words really resonated with me:
“In today’s society, when information is abundantly accessible any time we desire it, the most important skills we can teach students in the humanities are to analyze, interpret, question and synthesize material that they are interacting with. We must teach them to be producers of their own thought and not consumers of someone else’s opinion.”
Teaching children to think is at the core of what Natalie and her colleagues do in the classroom. It’s also at the core of the Texas Constitution, which states that public schools are the means for providing the “general diffusion of knowledge” that is “essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people…”
That’s a good history lesson we all should learn.