Every class has at least one – the smartest kid in the class. The one who has worked the hardest and made the best grades every grading period of every year he or she has been in school. In my class, that kid was Joel Rauber.
Joel and I became buddies in elementary school. But even at that young age, I could tell that Joel and his family put a lot of emphasis on learning. The one time I spent the night at his house was a learning experience for me. This was back in the late 60’s, and we didn’t have cell phones and computers and the internet. The big electronic device of our generation was the television, and color TV’s were more of a luxury item than the norm.
At any rate, I didn’t need to worry about whether the Raubers had a black and white or color TV… they did not have a TV at all! They didn’t believe in watching television. They thought it was a waste of time. Instead, their kids spent their time studying. Play time would usually involve some kind of educational board game.
At any rate, Joel and I remained friends throughout high school (no middle school in Decatur at that time), but I saw less and less of him as he zipped through the regular courses and went on to what few advanced courses were available at that time, while I slogged my way through my classes.
At the start of our senior year (1975) I heard that Joel had dropped out of school. I didn’t call him to check, because the rumor among us students was that he had burned out from all that studying and was in a mental hospital. As rumors usually are, we were far, far, far from the truth, but I didn’t find out the real story until 20 years later when Joel showed up at a class reunion.
What had really happened was that by the time our senior year started, Joel had gone through every regular and advanced class that Decatur High School had to offer. He wanted to start taking college courses at Emory University, but at that time, Decatur had no policy for allowing students to take college courses away from campus. The principal told Joel he would just have to retake some of the classes he had already whizzed through.
Rather than spend his entire senior year retaking classes he had already aced, Joel and his parents decided he would drop out. Emory had already said they would accept him as a student, high school diploma or no high school diploma, so that’s what he did.
Joel enrolled at Emory and graduated a few years later with a bachelor’s degree in physics. He went on to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a few years later graduated from there with a Ph.D. in physics. He became a college professor, and last year was named the head of the Physics Department at South Dakota State University.
The point of this story is that I’m glad today’s high school students are able to take college-level courses and even attend college while still high school students. If those options weren’t available, a lot of our brightest students here in Upson County might opt to go the route Joel went, and our dropout rate would be much higher than it already is.