Mr. Battaglia and the peace dividend.


1966 classmate Susan Moore and my modern lit teacher Mr. Battaglia. Photo: Fred Klonsky

It is Fathers’ Day and we are home from our week in California.

Hollywood, Ojai and Venice by the sea.

The ostensible reason for the trip was my unofficial 50th high school reunion. We got together ten years ago, and now – as many of us are heading for our seventh decade on the earth – they become more meaningful, if only for the chance to say how good we look.

Most of us are still here, although we have lost a few of us since the last time we gathered ten years ago.

How sweet that Mr. Battaglia came.

Battaglia was my senior modern lit teacher. Back when I had him he was in his late 20s and had only been a teacher for a few years. He is one of only three teachers whose names I still can recall: Miss Evans, my Art teacher. Mr. Arnot who taught international relations. It was 1964 and our class argued over the war in Vietnam nearly every day. You would not be surprised to know that I was in the minority as one who opposed the war.

And then there was Mr. Battaglia.

The story on Battaglia was that I purposefully tried to cause trouble by reading Allen Ginsburg’s poem, Howl, aloud, in class.

Which included the lines,

…who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,
who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love,
who balled in the morning in the evenings in rosegardens and the grass of public parks and cemeteries scattering their semen freely to whomever come who may,
who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up with a sob behind a partition in a Turkish Bath when the blond & naked angel came to pierce them with a sword,
who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate the one eyed shrew of the heterosexual dollar the one eyed shrew that winks out of the womb and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but sit on her ass and snip the intellectual golden threads of the craftsman’s loom,
who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of beer a sweetheart a package of cigarettes a candle and fell off the bed, and continued along the floor and down the hall and ended fainting on the wall with a vision of ultimate cunt and come eluding the last gyzym of consciousness,
who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling in the sunset, and were red eyed in the morning but prepared to sweeten the snatch of the sunrise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked in the lake…

I mean, if that wouldn’t get me sent to the principal’s office, what on earth would?

But aside from a few embarrassed laughs from a couple of boys in the back of class, I got nothing. When I was done, I sat down without a word from Battaglia.

When class was over, Battaglia called me to his desk and handed me a copy of Man’s Fate by Andre Malraux, a long book on the Chinese Revolution translated from the French. Battaglia told me he would like my opinion of it by Monday.

I shared that story with Battaglia last weekend at our gathering. He laughed and said that he had no memory of it.

Battaglia taught for a decade or so more and then became a LAUSD administrator running some of the magnet school programs. He retired two years ago, two years after I did.

A story in the Los Angeles Times from 1993:

Backed by federal “peace dividend” money freed by the end of the Cold War, Los Angeles school officials plan to establish a math and science magnet school in the San Fernando Valley aimed at hearing-impaired students–the first program of its kind in the city.

Scheduled to begin this fall, the program will also be open to hearing students, mixing them with deaf and partially deaf youths in classes to be held at Granada Hills High School and nearby Cal State Northridge, which boasts a renowned deaf education program.

Teachers will emphasize applied math and technology just as they do at similar math-science centers, which are among the Los Angeles Unified School District’s most sought-after magnet programs.

The Granada Hills program, which will cost an estimated $275,000 to get off the ground, will initially serve 180 high school freshmen and sophomores, about half of whom officials expect will be deaf or partially deaf students. Currently, the district serves 2,000 hearing-impaired youngsters, who either take regular courses alongside their hearing peers with the help of assistants or attend special classes.

Eventually, the Granada Hills school will serve 350 to 400 students, according to Richard Battaglia, the district’s magnet school specialist. As with all of the district’s 107 magnet programs, youngsters must apply for admission, and officials plan to develop a process that will grant hearing-impaired applicants some priority.

“It’s a wonderful idea,” said Josephine F. Wilson, director of the nonprofit Hear Center in Pasadena, which serves hearing-impaired people throughout Greater Los Angeles. “We want our kids to be exposed to what every other kid is exposed to.”

Magnet programs were created to provide students with a voluntary integration experience and an opportunity for specialized studies.

Technically, the Granada Hills program is being funded by the California National Guard–playing an overseer role for funds channeled from the defense budget.

At the request of Rep. Julian Dixon (D-Los Angeles), Congress appropriated $10 million from the defense budget last October for the cash-strapped Los Angeles school system to spend on youth programs, taking the money from the “peace dividend” reaped from reductions in the nation’s military forces following the end of the Cold War.

Because it was too late in the budget process to remove the money from the Defense Department, the Pentagon was directed to make the grant. And because, under federal law, a defense agency must oversee the spending of funds from the defense budget, the money was routed to the California National Guard to administer.

“Thank God for the National Guard,” said Board of Education member Roberta Weintraub, who represents Granada Hills. “Without their money, this program wouldn’t have come about.”

“It’s just like Santa Claus is coming to town,” added Battaglia.

The school board formally accepted the funding package last month, clearing the way for establishment of the Granada Hills magnet school, a new math-science center at Revere Middle School on the Westside and other programs focusing on applied math and engineering, as dictated by the grant, which provides $1.6 million for magnet education.

Officials also plan to channel the money into upgrading math and science “enrichment” programs into formal magnet school centers at Dorsey, Fremont, Jordan, Roosevelt and San Fernando high schools.

There was a peace dividend at the end of the Cold War that went to schools.

What a concept.

We should bring that idea back.

One B-2 stealth bomber costs $2 billion.

Sell one and that would keep Chicago schools open for a while.

One Reply to “Mr. Battaglia and the peace dividend.”

  1. “What a concept. We should bring that idea back. One B-2 stealth bomber costs $2 billion. Sell one and that would keep Chicago schools open for a while”:

    And the “total costs of the F-35 fighter are now expected to exceed $1.3 trillion — roughly $400 billion each to buy the planes and another $900 billion to maintain them over their lifespan… The Pentagon’s estimated costs for modernizing… will be approximately $350 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and at least $1 trillion over the next three decades…” (Reuters).

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