||Pat Conroy's teaching experience on an impoverished South Carolina island in 1969 is reminiscent of Eliot Wigginton's situation in Rabun County, Georgia, during the same time period. (Read Wigginton's book, _Sometimes a Shining Moment: A Foxfire Experience_, if you can locate it.) In each instance, a well-meaning and hopeful young teacher was dropped into what seemed to be an almost impossible educational situation -- an isolated community with seemingly backward students, nonexistent funds for decent materials, and goals and textbooks that didn't come close to meeting students' needs. In Conroy's case, the added strains of regional racism and administrative power games were too much to overcome, and he had to leave after serving a little more than a year there. And yet, _The Water is Wide_ is a humorous book. We laugh at the white teacher's ignorance of the Gullah children's lifestyles, and we laugh at the children's reactions to the facts he tries to teach them. It's one "fish out of water" gag after another, so to speak. We applaud Conroy's dismissal of the educational chain of command and we cross our fingers that field trips to the mainland will come off without a hitch. We hope that the students will be better off than they ever were before his arrival; for this commentary on one year at one small elementary school stands for all the rest of us, across time, at all the other schools in the nation.The most disturbing fact here is that those of us working in public education today can easily recognize practices that we still have to deal with: superintendents as dictators; ineffective or intimidating school boards; administrators who rule from afar and never set foot in any classroom. Most of us squeeze the living daylights out of the scantiest of budgets and rebel against the pressure to see the kids as testing statistics rather than human beings. It's all right there, in Conroy's book, and it's still in our schools today. So you can read his words and say to yourself, "Geez, at least we don't have it THAT bad," or you can find yourself commiserating with him and saying, "Wow. We're not that different. I hear you, Pat. Go for it."