My Old School


Next month I’ll be attending my 45th High School class reunion. I even volunteered to be on the planning committee. This will be the first High School reunion I’ve gone to. Today I’ve been thinking about the reasons why I’ve never been to one. What was it about school that made me not want to revisit those days? I’ve often wondered, as I’m sure many people do, what happened to some of my old school mates. I could probably have kept up with them through reunions but something always kept me away. It’s almost like I’ve had a phobia of school. So I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ll share some of those thoughts with you.

I got into a lot of trouble in school, but not in the way you might think. Whether it was grade school or Sunday school or high school, I got in trouble because I asked questions. Now you would think that school is the perfect place to ask questions and you’d be right. Unless you ask the wrong questions. Take for instance, History class. We learned all about American history, specifically European American history. We learned about the Doctrine of Discovery. And how this idea allows that Christian governments can occupy and claim for their own, lands that are occupied by non-Christian peoples. As Christians, it is their God given right to basically take what they want because they are on the side of God and those that aren’t, don’t count. I got in trouble over this because I wanted to know why it was okay to slaughter millions of Native Americans just so we could have their land. Once, I was told that if the Europeans hadn’t done that, I would never have been born, so I should be grateful that they did. Basically this means as long as I got what I wanted out of it, the rest of it shouldn’t matter. That excuse has been use for the fulfillment of most of the atrocities of history. I got a lot of lectures from teachers and principles in school.

As a child I attended Sunday school, Wednesday school and Confirmation classes in Middle school. At some time during all that I was taught that Hebrew law required all Rabbi’s to be married. This was an important part of being a Rabbi. I asked why Jesus wasn’t married. He was a Rabbi after all, the New Testament says so. He taught in the Synagogue. I was told that Jesus wasn’t married because he was the son of God. And I answered that Jesus was a Rabbi before anyone knew he was the son of God so, why wasn’t he married? I got in big trouble for that. In confirmation class I asked questions that my pastor couldn’t answer. He told me sometimes you have to take things on faith. “Well, no I don’t,” I answered. He looked at me thoughtfully and said, “Well you’re right, you don’t.” That was the first time I remember a teacher giving me an honest answer.

When I graduated High school I walked away without looking back. I didn’t have fond memories. I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t into sports, I wasn’t into joining. I wanted answers to questions that High school had no answers for. On my own throughout the years I’ve answered a lot of those questions by studying various teachers who would not be considered mainstream and definitely not accepted by the Education department of our government. To get my spiritual questions answered I went to Christianity and Buddhism, Paganism and no “ism” at all. And I have never once needed Algebra. As an adult I went to college to become a Medical Laboratory Technician. Had I had the money and time I would have continued my education on to Medical Laboratory Scientist which was only another two years from a Technician degree but it never happened. Going into the medical field allowed me to go to school and learn what I needed without all the extras that required education tacks on. Except for Algebra. I still had to do Algebra in college. (And I’ve still never needed it.)

So why go to a high school reunion after all these years? Hopefully we mature as we age. I’ve come to the point where if a person tells me they believe the exact opposite of what I believe I’ll say, “Well that’s nice, have a great day!” When I was young I wanted answers, I wanted to argue until I got them. I wanted to know. I wasn’t interested in being right in someone else’s eyes, I was interested in being right in my own mind. I am still interested in a good debate but the outcome of a debate should be to learn, not to be right. So I think the reunion will be fun. It will be good to see some folks I haven’t seen in a very long time. All the old drama that we thought was so important will be gone and we can simply enjoy seeing one another.

I had my head so filled with useless information in school that there were times I thought it might explode. I had to sift through it all, discard what I didn’t need and expound on what was useful. But you really can’t do that until you have a maturity level to know the difference. That’s what I’ve been doing since high school, in case anyone asks. Taking it all in, religion, politics, news and information, dissecting it all, looking for truth and discarding what is not helpful. Maybe someday, I’ll know something!

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Smokin’ In The Boys Room

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I started smoking cigarettes when I was sixteen. (I quit in 1992.) A bunch of us kids, and kids we were, would sneak a smoke in school. There was one bathroom that we favored because it was along the route between two classes and was out of the way of most other classrooms and therefore out of the way of most teachers. We would slip in quickly and someone would light up a smoke and then pass it around the circle. You’d get two or three puffs off it and the in the toilet it would go. Out came the breath mints and spray as you hurried to your next class to beat the bell.

One day I slipped into the bathroom and there was at least five other guys in there. Right behind me came three or four more. The place was packed and there were at least three or four smokes going all at once, maybe more. Just as we were finishing up, the door opens and in walks the vice principle. Now we considered our vice principle with what was a mix of awe, hatred and fear. He was a short guy who had acquired the nickname of “Stubby” by most of us and of course this name was never used to his face. I remember on my first day of high school as I was walking down the hallway past the principles office, Stubby comes out and points a finger at me. “You,” he says. And as I looked his way he motions toward himself. “Come here.” I walked over and stood looking down at him, myself only being five foot nine. “Is your name Armstrong?” he asked, knowing full well the answer to his own question.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Do you have a brother named Steve?” (Not my brothers real name.)

“Yes,” I answered again.

“Well,” he said with a grin. “I guess I’m going to have some with you, aren’t I?”

Thank you Steve, for your legacy.

As Stubby opened the bathroom door, a massive cloud of cigarette smoke rolled out at him. He stood holding the door open as we watched the smoke hit him in the face. The earth stood still, time ceased to exist. He stared at us. We stared at him. We stayed like that for what seemed like a long time. Back in those days you got detention for smoking. After school. A lot of extra work for the vice principle. After what seemed like an eternity Stubby turned and walked out of the bathroom. Not a word was spoken. None of us said anything to each other. We were so shocked by what just happened that we had no idea what to think. The cigarettes went in the toilet and we went to our classes. None of us got into any trouble. To this day, I still don’t know what went through his mind. Stubby continued to be relentless at catching us doing stuff as we continued to be relentless at doing stuff for him to catch us at. We all whispered about it later but none of us knew what happened. I guess it was just too much for him to deal with all at once. It was our only victory over him that I remember but a great one at the time.