I remember this one week in high school, my senior year, in Pleasanton, at Foothill High, maybe it was two weeks, when all the teachers in the union went on strike because all the people working in the administration got big ol’ raises, but the teachers didn’t so they said, That’s it, we’ll show them, we’ll go on strike.
Many, devoted to their teachers, supported the cause and went to the movies and got drunk and stuff. But for those who felt they needed an education — and this is when I started to question what an education really was — they brought in teachers or professors or something from U.C. Berkeley.
This sounded exciting on paper, and so I never missed a day of school. I believe this might have been the worst mistake of my life, and I might have learned more going ot the movies. I thought after two weeks I would be a whole lot smarter, but it was only maybe three days into it that I came to learn that geometry now had nothing to do with geometry, but debating Civil Rights.
“I want you to think,” our professor said. He was a large man, with an Afro. He wore glasses, and polyester pants, and brown leather shoes with zippers on the sides and aside from not teachig us anything about geometry, he did seem smart.
“Challenge yourselves,” he said. “Here is your topic.”
He wanted us to form groups, and over the course of the next couple of weeks, while our teachers were striking so they might be able to afford rent, we were to write a paper defending or arguing against mandatory drug tests in professional sports.
But in the days leading up to this paper’s composition, we were to debate with him. He wanted it to learn how to think critically. Get those ideas out. “Come on, spar with me, ” he said.
“Okay, like, does this have anything to do with geometry?” someone was bold enough to ask.
“Good for you! Challenge authority! Always!”
He still didn’t answer the question.
This other guy, I think his name was Cyrus, said that he felt that professional athletes should be held up to a higher standard, that they are role models for the youth, and so he felt drug testing seemed perfectly fine by him.
“Good,” said Mr. Big Hair. “But what if he eats a poppy seed bagel?”
“I don’t know, Marge (not her real name), this whole going to school stuff seems like a waste of time to me,” I said after school, hanging out at Marge’s house. Her room was pink. “I think I’d rather just go to the library and read or something. I’m tired of all this critical thinking. It is exhausting”
“Katie, as American citizens, it is our duty to get an education. I feel honored to have such highly esteemed professors in our midst. Let us take advantage of this. Seize the day!”
On the third day of our debates, with no end to this strike in sight, we had moved from a regular classroom with regular desks, to the library, and we sat at large tables in the front of the room.
“So, let’s say these two are on a date,” said Mr. Big Hair, pointing to me and another girl. There was nervous laughter.
I said, “Who, me?”
“Come on, you know you’d love to go out on a date with her. I know how you boys think!”
This was one of those awkward conversations I hated. I had issues with feathered hair and make up. That started my freshman year. It really bothered me that to be feminine, you’d have to wake up extra early and damage your hair with a curling iron and then paint your face with one shade of brown, to hide all your natural coloring, and then add new color to it, so your face would glow in the dark.
I wanted to ask everyone, “Is not having boobs and a vagina enough? Is not being frightened by spiders enough? What about crying at commercials? What about harboring secret crushes on football players. Just how far do we have to go to prove we are feminine?”
Unfortunately, my peers at Foothill High School were not ready for such extreme thinking, and neither was this professor.
“I’m a girl,” I said.
“What’s that? Speak up, boy!”
“I said, I’m a girl!”
“Whoa-hoa, I see it now, why yes, yes you are a girl! Terribly sorry about that, whooohee!” he said. The damage was done. I cried.
Boy was I glad when that strike and all that critical thinking crap was over.