Monday, February 18, 2013

Chapter Two - The Long Dark Corridor – The Sounds of Silence - “222”

Chapter Two - The Long Dark Corridor – “222”

The thought comes to you sometimes. That things do and do not matter.

I had the occasion with the abundance of information floating around the Internet to see the stories of two former high school teachers’ end run of career and retirements.

The first teacher had been a been a very well groomed and interesting Spanish teacher who I had been in freshman and sophomore classes with. Through a childhood grade school friend or some similar connection, the retirement of “S.” had been shown in a two minute You Tube clip. The teacher had survived all the way to the age of sixty-five just as the last class of an inner city high school was deemed obsolete by the Archdiocese.

"S." had given up Spanish classes, and had become the disciplinarian, no doubt for job security, at that Catholic High School. The You Tube saw him making the rounds and being surprised by a group of former students cheering and applauding him as he entered the school auditorium.

Of course, there were arguments that a school that had graduated many successful men, it was an all boys school, had an alumni base willing to subsidize the losses listed on the books of keeping a great institution going for another year or two.  That the successful white alumni loved their Alma Mater and did not care that the student body was not now one hundred percent, or even fifty percent, white as in olden days. That the Archdiocese’s game plan looked to a future model of new Catholic High Schools to be built in the rich white suburbs.

In any case, there was talk of a Jesuit high school to purchase the property but in the end the Public School System forked over the cash to start one of those so-called “Charter” High School things using the bones of existing buildings as the base of a new education operation in the inner city.

Getting back to "S.", he had studied Spanish in Mexico in his junior year in college. So besides the grammar of that language was a bag full of stories of his experiences relating and interrelating to that foreign culture.  In retrospect, it is strange how Americans can be so ignorant of a culture right next door and over the next border.

The friend from childhood that had told me or wrote to me or maybe just posted the You Tube on Facebook had been passing along some info. Much appreciated. And another grade school chum had sought me out to become part of that social network after another childhood friend had died. The dead classmate had in fact lived just two doors down from me back then. 

That the social network thing can keep old acquaintances alive in indirect contact and act in a manner that word of mouth, neighborhoods or hardcopy local newspapers had acted as in the recent past before the coming of this in some way mysterious new global culture thing.

The story about a Spanish teacher, though perhaps long winded was an intro to the another part of my story here and my reaction of sorts to an English teacher in high school.

I had related the story of Father Ed in The Long Dark CorridorI had touched upon some matters perhaps delicate and now long gone of the sexual orientation of some of the priests that taught in that high school. But I cannot let go of things sometimes. 

I also read recently of a retirement of an English teacher that went on to much higher things in the front office education bureaucracy of the archdiocese in the chancery downtown, sharing space with the hierarchy in that strange little office building, prefab, and hastily risen close to forty years ago.

“E.” was no doubt a very ambitious teacher. He no doubt was filled with many innovative ideas to modernize education in my high school and beyond to other schools in the archdiocese. Considering that I knew him in his salad days. I did not like him from day one. His loud high pitched boisterous way of talking and acting out the role of teacher as if on a stage and in a large auditorium without a sound system, in retrospect, speaks to me of a self-taught orator or one that did not adjust from the larger stage as in a college debating club to that of a classroom with about forty students.

In a way I did not seek to be put into his showcase “honors” English class.  And from day one, he made it clear that this was a showcase program and the whole world, meaning the Principal’s office and the archdiocese was looking to see how this pilot program would produce great students and great writing from the inner city turds that populated this high school's hallways.

They did segregate all us white male students according to the entrance test to the high school that we took in eighth grade into perhaps A, B, C tiers. With tiers overlapping.  And as I think back I was at the bottom of “A” or more likely the top of “B”. That people you sat next to in homeroom, you never saw again during the day except maybe at lunchtime. You were grouped according to your academic scores. Small bubbles within bubbles in an education system, wheels within wheels.

I had done very well in freshman year in terms of test scores in the English course. One of the strange things was that in this new elite English class in sophomore year, I saw no familiar faces except one. And as I think back, my freshman English class was something of hodge podge of kids of various levels of achievement. 

The teacher had been a Reverend Mister, a seminarian in his fifth year in seminary study who had just accomplished a four year degree and was being farmed out into the field for teaching experience in a religious order famed for its education status as a teaching order of priests and brothers.

On a side note, at the end of my junior year in high school, I was in the school band, marching on Memorial Day.  We stopped for a quick break and pit stop somewhere along the way.  That Reverend Mister came up to me in civilian clothes, tee shirt, shorts, and sneakers to say hi.  I could not but help notice that he was with a young lady.  He had not been in the school in my junior year.  He briefly explained that he was no longer in the seminary and wanted to know how I was doing etc. No doubt his hetero ways made him decide on a change in career etc. Never saw or heard of him again btw.

And speaking of the teacher base in a religious teaching facility, a high school run by the archdiocese, the religious still outnumbered the male lay teachers back then. The lay teachers for the most part were under 26 years of age. It was the age of Vietnam and the draft and they gave deferments to teachers. When they turned 27, most of them departed. Bolted in fact!

Two projects of that freshman English class stand out in my mind. One was the reading of the English translation of The Iliad by Homer and the almost chapter by chapter, blow by blow, bloody naked carcass by bloody naked carcass description of the carnage of war of that piece of ancient literature in more like a history lesson than an English class.

Second was a study of Mythology by Edith Hamilton. There had been a twenty question test on the names of all the gods and goddesses and lower categories of Mt. Olympus family members. I got a 100 on the test, being the only one in class to do so. Many had got a 95 but for some reason, I had memorized the secondary name of the moon goddess and I cannot remember now what that name was but no doubt I did well in that freshman class to be sent on to the honors English class in sophomore year.

Now here is where a lot of conflict happened for me. One, I did not know of any honors class in freshman year. Nor had anybody asked if I wanted to join such a club as it termed out to be.

In retrospect, I think that maybe my freshman year in high school and the different path that led me to sophomore honors English was my freshman schedule that I know was different that most of the others who ended up in sophomore honors English. I think that my Spanish class with “S.” had had me end up in a last minute put together freshman class with the reverend mister, a miscellaneous overthrow class to put people whose other courses such as language or math put them in schedule conflicts elsewhere. 

As such I was out of a social loop, and came into a sophomore class many of whom were already acquainted with each other in English in freshman year with schedules arraigned around French and German classes. I only knew one guy from freshman English in that sophomore class and he ironically was someone who had my exact duplicate schedule that first year. He was also someone out sick a great deal of the time, so I never really got to know him very well.

This is where another unpleasant memory pops into mind. Eighth grade and the elitist nun, with her nose raised in the air because she had been assigned to some poor Irish parish in the inner city, she went into such a stink when I submitted my desired optional courses on a piece of paper submitted to the high school. “Spanish”! It’s a mongrel language! You won’t be able to get into a decent college with Spanish on your high school record! You need French or German to get into college etc.

I had in fact took the course because my order sister had taken Spanish and I was hoping for some home tutoring regarding that course on language. 

Anyway, day one of sophomore honors English and the speech about us being the crème de la crème, the pilot program that was going to breakout of all expectations. There was also going to be a college style course load of a book a week to be read, analyzed and tested on and of course only the best writing possible was to be sought for as a targeted goal.  Under no circumstance was anyone ever going to get the coveted A+++ on any assigned essay etc.

Well, the fawning of the troops over this new messiah like teacher started from day one. And the many of them who talked so highly of “E.” outside of class.  Many in his regular English classes had more than enough to say about the crazy sophomore English teacher who no doubt gave the same or similar workloads to them.

I in retrospect have read some points of people not happy with “E.”, in recent years on the Internet, in this academic rule in later years in the Archdiocese head office, and these points seem to confirm to me that unless you joined his cult of adoration of his ideas and his vision regarding education, your careers in education were on shaky ground. Enough said about that because what I have seen on the Internet no doubt only represents a small margin view of the abilities and or accomplishments of this person.

I do remember in Senior Year, many of his prized Sophomore English honor students were in charge of putting together the Senior Yearbook that there were something like thirteen picture of “E.” from still adoring students from his personal and or English honors cult.

I am not a joiner. Perhaps I am loner. Just a few weeks into “E’s” sophomore class we had to write an essay on “The Sounds of Silence” and we were supposed to be creative because there were no guidelines besides the title of the essay.

Well, I can remember getting into this essay for some reason. I got very abstract and perhaps even spiritual. I can only remember the inspiration of a quiet moment in an early morning hour one summer’s day that I happened to be up just before dawn and how beautiful and magical the silence and lack of the presence of any automobiles or trucks in an otherwise very crowded and busy street intersection near where I lived, before the days of the nearby Interstate that became the present main artery of all that north south city traffic.

“E” hands out the essays with marks on them to most.  He holds back a few of the essays and begins to read them and praise them and criticize them as he went along. He then handed them back one by one to the authors. He continued to read. Then one begins to see the marks on the papers A+++ and one realizes that he does hand out A+++ marks and I was so filled with an internal glee that I had made the cut. I was going to get a A+++ and he was going to read it out loud in class. Such an honor.

My paper seemed to be on the bottom of his pile. Was he saving the best for last? I would never know.

The bell rang. Class was over. He handed my paper to me without comment and it did in fact have the A+++ rating but nobody in the class would hear my words aloud from the performing orator on the stage of the class.  My heart sank in total disappointment. Did he leave the best for last? Did time run out unnoticed to him? Or did he time it all by eyeing the clock. I can be so paranoid sometimes. 

But I got the A+++.  Been there.  Done that.  Time to move on. Etc.

I decided then and there. I would drop his course. So much of what he had fed this class so far was his own personal bullshit full of his ambitious plan to one day run the school system downtown which he in fact did one day. I have since read many things about cults and brainwashing and such and “E.” would have made a great Jim Jones in the secular world etc. IMHO.

I also as I have written this blog for many years have to wonder how ambitious church lady types with penises, how they rise to the top of their professions being perhaps tops and not giving a shit about who gets ground into sausage along the way, especially children.

I also have  to wonder how “E.” built his great education system as the archdiocese, one by one, shut down their inner city schools and high schools.  That glory sometimes is a story, a press release, as the world and or institution dies from attrition. 

Will the last person in the Archdiocese Education Office at “222” kindly turn off the lights as they leave the building forever.

I also have to wonder how many times how the elites of the Education Department rubbed elbows with the Elites of the hierarchy at board meetings or gatherings over cocktails and how polite church talk and education talk never got mixed with the very real talk of child abuse and criminal cover up emanating from the Cardinal’s penthouse office suite on the top floor above?

So it goes.


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