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Big Ron’s Brain
Being Smart in Baltimore

“If I was smart I’d move away—had hopped that freight train a long time ago, if I was smart.”

-Big Ron

While discussing the advisability of stealing a North Korean flag or even signage, the subject at The Raven Inn came down to stupidity in America and more specifically in Harm City.

I did real well in elementary school—real well. I wasn’t a conformist, I learned well but didn’t like authority, although I could follow directions. I had a strong opinion and liked and respected some teachers and tuned out others. Some teachers really shouldn’t be teaching, especially in a standard city class room appeasing to the lowest common denominator. It had been great if I had a smartphone, I could have sat there on that. The way the gradings were set up it wasn’t ABC, it was E for excellent on the report card. I did well in tests, quizzes, projects, reports ad report cards, but strongly hinged on if I was interested in the subject and the teacher, in particular as some of them would lose me pretty quick.

The worst teacher was probably Miss Brown, a 300 pound dindu woman, fourth grade. The only thing I remember her teaching us was putting peanuts in a blender and making peanut butter. She would try to humiliate students in front of other students—put them down. Just a really terrible teacher, was mean, had no business being in charge of a group of young children. A couple times, for getting smart with her, I was put in a desk out in the hallway.

The best teacher, I remember him real well, was Mister Borts. He was a real big guy who did gym and taught other classed, about six-six. He also did an after-school club and we would bring in wild life like turtles and frogs and snakes and cared for them and take and release them at the end of the year. The way he talked to everybody was very good. When I was in elementary school, [1] Schmoke, he wasn’t the mayor yet, he was a lawyer for the city and was teaching us about jury trial. It was nice to get out of class and he talked about how the law system worked and how it was set up. I answered a question right when he asked how many was on a jury trial and I said 12 and he said, “Very good, young man.”

When I left elementary school and was headed to middle school I was looking forward to learning, had an eye on getting an education, looking forward to it. And it all went downhill from there. In middle school, the worst teacher was Miss Jenkins, a real militant dindu woman. She subscribed to a lot of these theories about JFK, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and Robert Kennedy. And teaching things that weren’t proven. She was from New Orleans and talked about that non-stop. A big part of her teachings was these conspiracy theories and militant opinions. She treated me like I was invisible. Her lessons weren’t directed towards me.

Mister Fox and Mister Livinous [?] were good. And the gym teacher, a heavy set dindu woman who used to be a pro tennis player was a hell of a nice woman. We used to like to go to gym class with her. She would come out and do things with us, had some athletic ability as big as she was, would pitch baseballs, throw footballs, a real cool woman. Fox and levinous got me out of a semester of school installing shelves in the library, automatic passing grade for a couple months, putting shelves together and sorting the books and putting the new ones in. They did art and shop class, real good guys. There was another good one, Mister Laroux, the civil war re-enactor, who taught social studies and government and U.S. History.

They were overloaded with classes full of kids who shouldn’t be there, didn’t want to be there. There was a lot of thigs hard about being a teacher in an environment like that. I was never in the gifted and talented program for intelligent children, mild-mannered white and Asian kids, well-behaved and smart. If you were ornery or too unruly, they’d put you on drugs. I thought I could have gotten into the gifted and talented program, a very small class, their own thing going on. The rest of us were pretty much excluded. There ain’t no doubt in my mind that I would have qualified if I hadn’t been beating the shit out of dindus. Teachers that I didn’t have respect for, I lost interest in pretty quick. There was an old black guy teacher, Mister Jones, an in-house substitute, who told me he was going to take me outside and beat the hell out of me. I had a lot of respect for him after that and wound up getting along with him.

A lot of the teachers were timid, scared of the students—flat-out that’s what it was, scared.

We know that Ron’s education ended on a fistic note.

As an adult in my early twenties, I went to Hopkins for an IQ test out of my own curiosity. I called some city number and they put me in touch with it. I went down to Monument street to this place run by Hopkins. There were no educational questions. It was about your ability to process and remember information. Large groups of symbols that they show you and you have to put them in certain orders based on the most logical sequence and it keeps getting harder and harder. It was cheap, cost about 20 bucks. The whole test took about an hour. Somebody was with me the whole time. This was all hard copy stuff—imagine it’s done on a computer now. My result was 116. He said that that neighborhood, 115-120 is above average intelligence and is a real great place to be, because when you get into the genius level they have a hard time communicating with the lower IQ levels. He called it a bridge, a level of intelligence that permits you to communicate with the higher and lower levels of intelligence.


1. Kurt Schmoke was the most intelligent politician produced by Baltimore in the author’s life time. Among other unpopular proposals, as mayor he suggested legalizing drugs to limit gang expansion.

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