I’ve been puzzled why the former DE kids now show proportionally more school spirit than the rest of our class. Many of them still keep in touch with each other, are interested in school memories, and attend the mini-reunions, yet these were the very ones who, seemingly, so disliked school that they preferred working half days of their senior year. They have also been surprisingly successful in life. Anyone who did not know us then would be hard pressed now to guess who were DE and who were academic.
The vast majority of the two hundred or so readers of this blog each week have probably never heard of Lansdowne-Aldan High School, much less DE, so a word of explanation: “DE” stood for “Distributive Education,” a senior-year program that was part of a nation-wide organization geared to high school students not expecting to continue on to college. It consisted of morning classes devoted to the working-world, followed by an afternoon job, usually in a local store (hence, “distributive”). Looking through our yearbook, I count 19 in DE from our total class of 132.
A dislike of school was not the only appeal of DE. They needed cars to get to their jobs and could now afford them, as was obvious from the empty parking spaces when they left for their jobs. The rest of us knew the advantage of hanging out with a DE kid.
The DE teacher was Miss Ankeny. Some called her “Miss Agony,” but even then they spoke of her with respect. She must have had many contacts with local businesses because each student was assigned a job without having to search for one themselves. She was their only teacher all morning, and teaching one group for that long is difficult. A good part of the time was discussing their jobs, but apparently she had carte blanche to teach them whatever she thought they needed, even a session on table settings and manners. To her advantage, they could often apply what they learned within a few hours and were, therefore, a generally attentive group (despite legendary bird calls by Don DiFlippo).
But why should the DE kids end up with more school spirit? I think one of them, Ed Fitzsimmons, has it right. Because they were together all of each morning sharing each other’s experiences, they became an unusually close-knit group. The rest of us were divided at each class into disparate groups of relative strangers and could only identify with our individual social groups.
(Footnote: “Distributive Education” today also refers to a system of education for distant students connected via computer to a central faculty of online teachers.)