You can learn a lot from a Sweathog. In case the name rings no bells, "Sweathogs" were a group of miscreant students in the '70s sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter."
The show took place in an urban high school, and the premise involved a former Sweathog named Gabe Kotter, who came back to his alma mater to teach.
In keeping with '70s sloppy sitcom-soaked sentimentalism, Mr. Kotter regularly inspired his tough-as-nail charges to learn important life lessons and see the value of education, all within 30 minutes.
One of my favorite cable channels is playing "Welcome Back, Kotter" episodes as part of its summer line-up. I decided to watch a few. It's amazing that after a 30-plus year absence, each character came back to me with familiarity, almost like members of my family. (Well, the members of my family I want to remember, anyway.)
First there was Vinnie Barbarino, played by a pre-"Saturday Night Fever" John Travolta. With wavy dark hair and dreamy blue eyes, Vinnie had a heart of gold and a brain of lead. Somehow the teen girls (myself included) who had his magazine pull-outs plastered on their bedroom walls didn't seem to care.
Vinnie's fellow students included Freddy "Boom-Boom" Washington, a lanky, smooth-talking fellow who always had something up his sleeve.
Others were Juan Epstein, whose claim to fame was forging his mother's name on notes in order to get out of class, and Arnold Horshack, a nasally-voiced nerd who held up his hand in class and yelled, "Ooh,
ooh, ooh" when he wanted to answer a question.
There were, of course, female class members. They basically served as appendages to the male stars. (I guess the '70s had a way to go in the area of women's equality.)
Kotter, as the teacher, was the glue that held the show together. Not the typical TV sitcom star, he was short, had a halo of frizzy hair and cracked corny jokes. Shortcomings aside, the message at the heart of "Welcome Back, Kotter" was a dedicated teacher and the students who loved him. They even managed to learn something from him in the process.
Times have changed. A TV show about a tough high school would look a lot different today.
Today's "tough" students don't forge signatures on notes; they open fire on classmates.
Today's dedicated teachers aren't respected; often, they're targets for violence from students and litigation by parents.
Today's schools aren't places for growth and learning; they're war zones.
The Bible warns us that times are increasingly evil. In other words, it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
Only Jesus can make the difference.