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Troop Greeters At Bangor International Airport Need To Understand The Importance Of Education

May 13, 2008

I had to laugh at the articles that were printed in the Bangor Daily News recently over the reaction to comments that famed writer Stephen King made about the need to have better education in this nation.  The whole ridiculous situation with the troop greeters not understanding the remarks, underscores the fact that the statement by King has validity.

What started the controversary with the troop greeters?

Bangor author Stephen King has found himself the target of e-mailers and phone callers for what he told high school students while stressing the importance of reading at the Library of Congress on April 4: “The fact is if you can read, you can walk into a job later on. If you don’t, then you’ve got the Army, Iraq, I don’t know, something like that.” 

What part of this statement is so hard for folks to understand?  Education is the only vehicle that either propels one forward with purpose, while the lack of it stymies all hopes and aspirations.  It is that simple.  Well, one would think it was pretty straightforward, except if you are a troop greeter in Bangor, Maine.

At Bangor International Airport on Wednesday, a handful of troop greeters who took offense to King’s comments removed any items related to the horror writer from their room at the terminal where the photos, books and articles are traditionally displayed. The greeters indicated the items would not be displayed again until King apologized.

The best-selling author was not issuing any apologies, however, when the BDN reached him by phone at his Sarasota, Fla., winter home on Wednesday.

Referring to right-wing blogger Noel Sheppard, who helped fan the flames of criticism this week, King said, “Guys like him take their cues from [conservative commentators Rush] Limbaugh and [Bill] O’Reilly, who are adept at shifting discussion from what they don’t want to talk about, such as the failures of the war in Iraq, to what they want to talk about — supporting the troops. Of course, we all support the troops.”

The remarks by King are not unlike ones that I have made, and know to be true from close experiences.

“I see a lot of young people who don’t test well and don’t read particularly well,” he said. “When we ask them what they’re going to do, they say go into the service. If you can read, the world is open to you, your opportunities are endless. If you can’t read, your options are more limited. For low-income students with low grades, the [Armed Services] is one of their options.”

King said he doesn’t regret his remarks.

Despite all the heat he is taking, King said Wednesday he will continue his push for better education and literacy.

“I’m not going to apologize for promoting that kids get better education in high school, so they have more options,” he said. “Those that don’t agree with what I’m saying, I’m not going to change their minds.”

Public reaction to the matter has generated much back and forth, with this one catching my eye.

Troop greeters at Bangor International Airport took down pictures of Stephen King to protest comments by the Bangor author — and generous community benefactor — that students should read so they’ll have more career options than ending up in Iraq with the military. Perhaps they can replace the posters with copies of the First Amendment.

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  1. Bob Bailey permalink
    February 10, 2009 1:54 PM

    The difficulty is not that the Troop Greeters fail to understand the value of education (most have Bachelor’s degrees and many have Masters and even Doctorates). The difficulty is that Mr. King fails to understand the educational level of the modern military.
    An officer must have a college degree to begin with. By the time field grade (major and above) is reached, they have reached the level of a Masters degree. Most full colonels and above would qualify for a doctorate. Almost all NCOs (sergeants and above) have at least an Associate’s Degree and many senior NCOs have Masters degrees. The modern military is better educated than the general population, by far.
    They have to be. Modern military equipment and electronics require a high degree of intelligence and education to operate properly, to say nothing of the education necessary to maintain it. The average individual will not be able to do so. Even the PBI (poor bloody infantry) carries an array of electronic gadgets to do his job that would overwhelm the average kid on the street corner.
    Another, equally important point is that the vast majority of people in our military today are motivated by the work they do when deployed to places like Iraq and Afghanistan. They build schools and other public works, provide medical care, and give their expertise to the locals in the form of training and liaison work. Whereas Mr. King merely makes loads of money writing books for general entertainment, these people really make a difference in the lives of people who have far less than what the average reader of a novel have.
    I admire Mr. King’s writing skills, but I do not look up to him as a fount of wisdom.

  2. DaleLuce permalink
    June 16, 2008 3:02 PM

    I have to say that education is a big thing. And like that one other comment said it’s the bright students aswell. And as a matter of fact, alot of the Soldiers that I know, (and I know alot as I live on an Army post) join the military because they can not afford the education and are guaranteed money for an education. And even the ones that “aren’t so bright” they want that G.I. Bill so they can learn more. And no, to tell you the truth if you can’t read well? It’s not easy to get through the ASVAB. So, to say that the military would be the only way to go is not true at all. I know that whatever Stephen King books that my husband and I have are the only ones we are going to have. We will not be buying anymore from him. We have plenty of other books and genres and authors to choose from.

  3. Patrick permalink
    May 13, 2008 11:50 PM

    Look, I can understand why the some of the people of Bangor are upset at King for his remarks. I teach in a high shchool and see first-hand the types of students entering the armed forces. Some are exceptionally bright and others are not–its that simple. But King’s generalization shows his disregard for the very troops who defend his right to be a wordy knob. His comment suggests that military serive is demeaning and lowly, the final refuge of the failed American youth. That is crap and to defend or rationalize it is also crap. It is like saying those who can’t, teach. And while some snarky reporter might chuckle about the need to distribute copies of the First Amendment to those unwashed miltary families and others who resent rich fools who disrespect them, perhaps we should likewise celebrate people who also exercise their rights by asking that his image be taken down.

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