I was on my way back from the paint store with another handful of swatches, trying not to crash the car as I inched over the glacial streets of South Minneapolis, when all of a sudden I heard it. I heard the unthinkable. And I almost did crash.
Dr. Bill Bennett, host of "Morning in America" and author of -- Lord, how many books?-- was chatting with Mike Gallagher about his latest coup: Houghton Mifflin has agreed to publish
Dr. Bennett's "America: The Last, Best Hope" as a textbook.
Let me repeat that: AS A TEXTBOOK.
You know what they do with textbooks, don't you? They send them in to SCHOOLS.
Where they are read in CLASSROOMS.
By TEACHERS. And, if the teachers are lucky, by STUDENTS as well.
Obviously this is shocking news on a number of levels. For one thing Bill Bennett is smart. More than smart- intelligent. And get this: his book is about America.
An intelligent book about America? In the public schools? Maybe even required?
I must be dreaming, I said to myself.
Then Dr. Bennett said something that slapped me wide awake: he said he guessed this meant "'the times they are a changin',' as Peter, Paul and Mary said!"
Now, I listen to "Morning in America" every morning, on my way home after dropping my fourth-grader at school. I'd like to listen to it on the way to school as well, but usually I'm either drilling my kid on spelling words or going over the basketball schedule with her. (This is mostly to avoid having to listen to anything from "High School Musical
And if there's one thing you learn from listening to "Morning in America," it's that Bill Bennett knows his music. He can tell a Dion from a Belmont, a Freddy from a Pacemaker, a Shangri from a La. Have a question on the Ronettes? Ask Dr. B. Care to debate the relative merits of the Mersey Beat? Dr. B. is your man.
So when I heard him attribute "The Times They Are a Changin'" to Peter, Paul, and/or Mary, naturally I was astonished. Excuse me, but did Bob Dylan write a more iconic song? If you grab a stranger on the street and demand a Bob Dylan recital, do you not immediately get a nasal rendition that begins "Come gather 'round people, wherever you roam"? I'll tell you one thing, you sure as heck won't get "Puff the Magic Dragon."
I live in Minnesota. We are the state that gave America Senator Al Franken. Not to mention Walter Mondale. We have much to atone for. But by gum, at least we gave America Bob Dylan, who gave America "The Times They Are A Changin'" (Okay, so he also gave America one of the loopiest Christmas albums of all time-- see link-- but that's beside the point.)