Let's say you're an eighth grader at Herbert Hoover Junior High School in Rockville. And let's say you're thinking about taking the honors English course next fall.

So you go to the main office like the obedient young scholar that you are and you ask for a course young scholar that you are and you ask for a course description. Here's what you get:

"The content, the learning processes, the academic settings, and the expectations for student products are differentiated. Both instruction and content is adapted. Literature selected for study will be challenging to the most able students. Students are afforded the maximum responsible degree of independence in identifying learning activities, products and assessments. Continuing emphasis is placed on going beyond the skills of knowledge, acquisition, and recall to the use of higher level thinking/processing skills of application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Instruction affords opportunities to integrate literature, language and composition, as well as incorporating relevant learning from other content areas. Content is selected on the basis of its potential for providing simultaneously progressive, nonrepetitive skill development."

Got that?


You say you're confused?

You say you've never met an eighth grader who could understand this glob of verbiage, much less an adult who could?

Well, you'd be amazed if you heard what a Herbert Hoover official responsible for the honors program there had to say.

She said that puzzling out language like this is good training for future life.

She said that this is the sort of language that the Montgomery County schools use all the time in course descriptions.

And she said she couldn't understand how in the world anybody could fail to understand it.

She also declined to give her name for publication, Renee Brimfield, coordinator of new programs and development for the county schools, wasn't so reluctant. Nor was she reluctant to say of the Hoover language: "It's not the kind of thing we usually let go through to 13-year-olds."

To any Hoover eighth graders who are still unsure about what honors English offers next year, I submit this thought:

Caveat emptor.

That's a fine phrase that translates loosely as, "Sometimes English is too important to be left to administrators who draft course descriptions."

There are very few things you can be sure of in this mad, mad, world, but here's one of them:

The wrong guy always wins raffles.

Put up a trip to the Bahamas, or an all-expenses-paid blowout in Palm Springs, and fortune always seems to smile on some hundred-grand-a-year type with six BMWs and his choice of 14 curvaceous traveling companions. He's never a guy who can really use the prize.

Well, Anthony Veith of Chevy Chase has just righted the balance in a big way.

On Sunday, April 6, Anthony won the grand prize in a $100-per-ticket raffle held for the benefit of Blessed Sacrament School in Northwest. And grand it was: a choice between $20,000 in cash or a new van and a new car.

Now, many of us would say, "Choice? What choice? I've already got all the cars I need. Put the cash in my hot little fist and put me on the plane to Somewhere Exotic."

But Anthony chose the vehicles. Reason: He has 16 children and 18 grandchildren. If there has ever been a buy who needed wheels, and who would have been strapped to buy them on his own, Anthony is he.

Anthony Veith is a retired government employe who now is one of the owners of a satellite information company. His wife Ann is a registered nurse. Their relationship with Blessed Sacrament has been about as extensive as it gets.

The Veiths started things off by getting married in the Blessed Sacrament chapel in 1949. Then, all 16 Veith children (who are between the ages of 36 and 12) either attended Blessed Sacrament School, or still do.

Anthony Veith almost didn't make it to his moment in the sun. A few minutes before the drawing, he was wrestling with a hot water heater in his basement -- and the heater was winning. But he threw a coat and tie and went over.

"I was shocked when I found out that I won," he said. "Nobody was with me, so they didn't find out until I got home and told them about it."

Congratulations on three counts, Mr. V.: For coming in first. For having the big family you and Ann always dreamed about. And for being, for a change, the right kind of winner.

John Contee of Bethesda says he overheard it at the country club bar, one 19th-holer to another:

"The older I get, the better I used to be."