My previous post on this theme honored the career of Mr. Hand who taught history at Ridgemont High in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I hope you enjoyed that little stroll down memory lane. Today we move to the campus of Northwestern College Great Lakes University and the classroom of Professor Turgeson who teaches Contemporary American History. I hope there are a few of you who remember Professor Turgeson who was played by the late Sam Kinison in the movie Back to School. The movie starred the late Rodney Dangerfield who played Thornton Melon, a successful businessman who decides to go back to school to encourage his struggling son. This scene is set on the first day of class in Turgeson’s classroom.
Professor Turgeson: Welcome to Contemporary American history. I know a lot of people think history is just facts… just information about the past, but not me. I hold history very sacred. Sacred. The way a farmer looks at the Earth and holds it sacred. The way a Christian takes the Bible… and he holds it sacred. The way a lot of people hold their marriage sacred. That’s how I feel about it. So why don’t we dive right in… by interpreting one of the easiest events… in the last twenty years of American history. Now, can someone tell me… why, in 1975 we pulled our troops out of Vietnam?
Student: The failure of Vietnamization to win popular support… caused an ongoing erosion of confidence… in the various American… but illegal… Saigon regimes.
Professor Turgeson: Is she right? ‘Cause I know that’s the popular version… of what went on there. I know a lot of people like to believe that. I wish I could, but I was there. I wasn’t here in a classroom… hoping I was right, thinking about it. I was up to my knees in rice paddies… with guns that didn’t work, going up against Charlie… slugging it out with him, while pussies like you… were back here partyin’, puttin’ headbands on… doin’ drugs, listening to the goddamn Beatle albums! Thornton Melon: Hey, Professor, take it easy, will ya? These kids were in grade school at the time. And me… I’m not a fighter, I’m a lover.
Professor Turgeson: Well, I didn’t know you wanted to get involved… with the discussion, Mr. Helper. But since you want to help, maybe you can help me, OK? You remember that thing we had about thirty years ago… called the Korean conflict? Yeah. Where we failed to achieve victory. How come we didn’t cross the th parallel… and push those rice-eaters back to the Great Wall of China… and take it apart brick by brick… and nuke them back into the fuckin’ stone age forever? How come? Tell me? Why? Say it! Say it!
Thornton Melon: All right, I’ll say it. ‘Cause Truman was too much of a pussy wimp… to let MacArthur go in and blow out those commie bastards! Professor Turgeson: Good answer. Good answer. I like the way you think. I’m gonna be watching you. Thornton Melon: Good teacher. He really seems to care. About what, I have no idea.
I’m not sure this is the best way to start a class discussion on the first day of the new semester. What do you think?