In the opening paragraph of The Unforgettable Miss Bessie, Carl Rowan states that Miss Bessie "taught me English, history, civics - and a lot more than I realized." What did she teach her students...

In the opening paragraph of The Unforgettable Miss Bessie, Carl Rowan states that Miss Bessie "taught me English, history, civics - and a lot more than I realized." What did she teach her students beyond the traditional public school curriculum?

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kipling2448's profile pic

kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In his memoir of growing up in McMinnville, Tennessee, in the first half of the 20th Century, Carl Rowan, who become one of the nation's most respected African American journalists, describes the influential role in his intellectual and emotional development of his high school teacher, Miss Bessie.  As the question points out, Rowan introduces the reader to this important figure in his life by teaching him about "history, English, civics -- and a lot more than I realized."  As Rowan will go on to expand on this observation, formed later in life, Miss Bessie taught him more than the contents of his school books; she taught him how to be a man.  Noting young Carl's interest in earning a starting spot on the high school football team, Miss Bessie quickly instructs him on the importance of life beyond sports, and the importance of standing up for himself as a strong-willed, independent voice.  In this opening passage, Rowan quotes his teacher as follows:

“Boy,” she responded, “you’ll play football because you have guts.  But do you know what really takes guts?  Refusing to lower your standards to those of the crowd.  It takes guts to say you’ve got to live and be somebody fifty years after all the football games are over.”

Miss Bessie is teaching Rowan about the importance of looking beyond his immediate gratification.  High school football will last, at best, four years.  Maybe, he will be able to continue to play sports at a high level.  Eventually, however, he will have to put sports and other youthful activities behind him, and be a man -- a responsible adult who provides for his family and conducts himself with dignity.  In short, Miss Bessie teaches Rowan about more than just the subject matter integral to the educational process; she teaches him about life.

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user2647123's profile pic

user2647123 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

what is he trying to share with readers?

what qualities of miss Bessie's does rowan admire?

How did miss Bessie influenced rowan and others?

why do you think so many former students attended her funeral ?

why does rowan describe their professions?

how does thatsupport his point?

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