Last updated 4/19/2022 at 3:55pm
Among some of the nice things about serving in the Legislature for 32 years is the opportunity I enjoyed meeting people, some famous, some not-so-famous, but most very interesting folks. One of the most interesting acquaintances I made during my tenure in the Legislature is Molly Ivins. Molly became nationally well-known by writing a couple of books. She had a great sense of humor and possessed great insight into politics. She came as a reporter to the Legislature the same year of my first term. Over the years we became great friends, even though on occasion she would take me to task about some issue on which she disagreed.
While Molly reported on me both favorably and unfavorably, one thing she did do for me was to make one of my quotes the most famous one of my career. While working on rewriting the education code, my committee, against my objection placed an amendment in the bill requiring teachers to take a written test which was labeled as a competency test. The test did very little to question the competency of the teachers, as a matter of fact, if one could read and understand the Reader’s Digest, it would be nothing at all to pass the test. It enraged teachers as I predicted it would. Nonetheless, it got put in the bill anyway. On one occasion an older teacher from Houston led a delegation into my office and was seemingly distraught about the fact the Legislature had questioned the competence of teachers. She looked me in the eye and said in a raised voice, “What we need is for you ‘dadgum’ politicians to take a competency test!” I looked back at her and said, “No Ma’am, we can’t do that.” “Why not?” she said. I said, “Well, if we take all the ignorance out of the Legislature, it would no longer be representative government.”
Later on, as my wife was teaching government at Lamar State College-Port Arthur, she received a new textbook. As she thumbed through the book, she discovered the heading of one of the chapters on the was my quote about getting ignorance out of the Legislature.
On reflection, it’s probably a good thing for all voters to stop and think when they about to criticize politicians. They should recall it is voters who put them there. Unfortunately, too often, it is truly representative government; representing not only the smart folks, but the ones who are not so smart.