Rocket Boys

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the principal of Big Creek High School, Mr. R.L. Turner plays a key role in the success of Homer and the BCMA’s rocketry. While he’s initially reluctant to allow Homer and his friends endanger their community by experimenting with explosive substances, Turner changes his mind after the federal government announces its intentions to teach more math and science in schools. In the end, Turner celebrates the BCMA for bringing honor to his school.

Mr. R.L. Turner Quotes in Rocket Boys

The Rocket Boys quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. R.L. Turner or refer to Mr. R.L. Turner . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dell edition of Rocket Boys published in 2000.
Chapter 2 Quotes

“As I’m sure you know by now,” Mr. Turner said in his deliberate manner, “the Russians have launched a satellite into space. There have been many calls for the United states to do something in response. The Big Creek Student Council today has responded to, and I quote, the ‘threat of Sputnik’ by passing a resolution—I have it in my hand now—that dedicates the remainder of the school year to academic excellence. I approve the council’s resolution.”

Related Characters: Mr. R.L. Turner (speaker)
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

Rocket Boys is set against the backdrop of the Cold War, the long, semi-militaristic confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union that lasted from 1947 to 1991. Over the course of nearly half a century, the two dominant superpowers of the world, America and Russia, competed with one another for economic and political control of the world. The competition took many forms; the one most relevant to Rocket Boys is the Space Race. During the Space Race, inaugurated by the Soviets' launch of the satellite Sputnik into space, the two countries competed to produce the most powerful rockets and vehicles for space exploration. It was believed by both sides that success in space exploration was a way to assert superiority over one's political rivals.

As the quotation shows, one major consequence of the Space Race was a renewed focus on math and science in American schools. Following the launch of Sputnik (the satellite mentioned in the quote), national educational reform ensured that students would spend more time studying math and science, the two subjects deemed most relevant to building rockets and satellites that could compete with Russia's. Studying hard during the Space Race—not to mention building rockets--was considered an important, even patriotic mission, as every science book supposedly brought the U.S. closer to besting Russia.

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Mr. R.L. Turner Character Timeline in Rocket Boys

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. R.L. Turner appears in Rocket Boys. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: Sputnik
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Homer’s first class is biology. Over the intercom, the school principal, R.L. Turner talks about Sputnik, and suggests that the students concentrate on their studies in order to... (full context)
Chapter 6: Mr. Bykovski
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
As Quentin and Homer talk, Miss Riley, a teacher, and Mr. Turner , the principal notice them. When Quentin tells Mr. Turner about the BCMA, Turner tries... (full context)
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
As they walk away from Mr. Turner and Miss Riley, Homer and Quentin argue about the science fair. Homer is reluctant to... (full context)
Chapter 8: Construction of the Cape
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...and sexually adventurous—two qualities that endear her to the boys at school, but not to Mr. Turner . She’s always liked Homer, for reasons that have never been clear to him. As... (full context)
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...meaning that he’ll probably spend the rest of his life working in a coal mine. Mr. Turner overhears him, and agrees, saying that there’s nothing fair about what has happened. Homer sees... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
A week after Mr. Turner announcement, Homer goes to the lumber shop at the mine. At the mine, he finds... (full context)
Chapter 15: The State Troopers
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
Aided by Miss Riley, the BCMA goes to talk to Mr. Turner about organizing a calculus class. Miss Riley is a forceful advocate for the boys, explaining... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
The next day, Homer and Quentin are called to Mr. Turner ’s office. There, they’re shocked to find Miss Riley and Mr. Turner standing with two... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...protests that the boys can’t have caused the forest fire—their launchpad is too far away. Mr. Turner ’s wife then bursts in, carrying a map of the surrounding area. Homer notices that... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
After Quentin finishes explaining the origins of the metal flare, there is an awkward silence. Mr. Turner clears his throat and asks the state troopers, along with Homer and Quentin, to leave.... (full context)
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...worst of the six applicants, he’ll be unable to take the class. Homer learns from Mr. Turner that Dorothy Plunk took his place. While Homer is crushed by this news, he’s not... (full context)
Chapter 22: We Do the Math: Auks XXII-XXIV
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...the source of which he doesn’t know. Miss Riley shows Homer’s drawings and equations to Mr. Turner , explaining that Homer and the BCMA should represent Big Creek in the county science... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Homer and Miss Riley leave Mr. Turner ’s office, and Miss Riley tells Homer that she’ll enter him in the upcoming science... (full context)
Chapter 23: Science Fairs
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
Homer returns to school, where he tells Mr. Turner about his success—Turner grins and congratulates Homer. Homer also tells Miss Riley, who’s extremely proud... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
A few days after the BCMA’s victory, Mr. Turner summons the BCMA onstage during a school-wide assembly. Turner and Miss Riley congratulate the BCMA... (full context)
Chapter 25: The National Science Fair
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Homer travels to Indianapolis by bus. Many Coalwoodians show up to see Homer off: Basil, Mr. Turner , Melba June, Mr. Dubonnet, Homer Sr., Elsie, Mr. Caton, Mr. Ferro, and the entire... (full context)
Chapter 26: All Systems Go: Auks XXVI-XXXI (June 4, 1960)
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...BCMA members are in the top ten, except for Roy Lee and O’Dell. At graduation, Mr. Turner personally congratulates Homer for bringing honor to his school, and places Homer’s science fair medal... (full context)
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...come from across the county for the event. Homer also notices Miss Riley, Jake, and Mr. Turner . (full context)