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When it comes to education, Jackson is definitely old school

Samuel L. Jackson
 (The Spokesman-Review)
Samuel L. Jackson (The Spokesman-Review)
Colleen Long Associated Press

Samuel L. Jackson‘s casual clothes fit his attitude: black running jacket, jeans, white sneaks and just a hint of bling in a diamond-ringed watch and a dog tag with his initials around his neck.

With nearly 80 films under his belt, the 56-year-old actor doesn’t really need to care what people think of him.

His latest, “Coach Carter,” is based on the real-life story of Ken Carter, a basketball coach in an inner-city high school in Richmond, Calif., who benched his whole team because 15 of 45 varsity players weren’t performing academically.

Jackson knows his movie isn’t going to elicit any big changes in how education is generally reviled and athletics revered in schools. He’s happy as long as a few kids see the film and decide they want to study more, or figure out that an education is something invaluable:

Q. What did you think of Carter when you heard about him?

A. I thought it was a refreshing change from always hearing about winning at any cost. I liked that about what he was doing, putting the idea out there that education is worth something, that it’s important.

Q. Do you agree with his methods?

A. Sure, in some ways. Somewhere along the way we lost the idea of a “student-athlete.” They have become “athlete-students.” If you don’t go to class you can still play ball, but you get hurt, maybe you don’t run the ball as fast anymore … what have you got left? An education is something that can’t be taken away.

Q. Do you feel like you have to be a role model because of your fame?

A. No. I think I need to be a responsible human being and do things I believe in, and I help out people but I don’t do that publicly. It’s not my responsibility as an actor to tell you who to vote for, or what cause to believe in or who to give money to. It makes me crazy to hear people in my profession preach about that sort of thing.

Q. But you are pretty socially active, and you have been since college, right?

A. Yes. Where are you going with this?

Q. Well, I read that in 1969 that you held some board members hostage at Morehouse College and got expelled.

A. I grew up in segregation in Chattanooga. So when I got to college, and Morehouse is a predominantly African-American school, there were no African-Americans on the board and no student representation. So we solicited to have that put in place and no one would listen. We locked some of them up inside for a few days. And now, they have student representation and African-American board members. And I went back and graduated. Now, of course, my hands are imprinted in the cement. Funny how fame goes.

Q. Do you think students would do that today?

A. I think it was indicative of what kind of people we were. We thought what we said made a difference. I don’t know if people think that anymore. But I bet if the draft was reinstated or something people would start talking, start doing something. It’s a shame it takes something so extreme.

The birthday bunch

Actress Betty White is 83. Actress-singer Eartha Kitt is 78. Actor James Earl Jones is 74. Talk-show host Maury Povich is 66. Singer Steve Earle is 50. Actor-comedian Steve Harvey is 48. Actor Jim Carrey is 43. Singer Shabba Ranks is 39. Musician Kid Rock is 34. Actor Freddy Rodriguez (“Six Feet Under”) is 30. Actress Zooey Deschanel (“Elf,” “The Good Girl”) is 25. Singer Ray J is 24.

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