Why I can tell you all about gay sex, but I can’t define the word “predicate.”
I have a confession to make: I have no idea what a predicate is.
My excuse for this fact is that I am a graduate of Scarborough High School, the public high school of Scarborough, Maine. The English department there (save Erin Blain, Jon York, and Gerry Hebert) is notoriously awful. It has gotten to the point where it is being ridiculed on Facebook. The Facebook group “You Know Your From Scarborough If…” includes the line, “If you can make it through Scarborough High School and still not know how to properly use ‘you’re.’”
My freshman year of high school I had the highest level of quality teachers during my time at SHS. Sophomore year, however, the educational quality rapidly deteriorated. I was placed in an English class titled Honors Advanced, a class of students who had been identified as “gifted and talented” in previous grades. This was a class taught by Bruce Spang, the current Poet Laureate of the City of Portland, and the author of a chapbook of poems titled The Knot. A review of the book online (which also describes my English class) begins: “Bruce Spang is gay. It shouldn’t matter, but it does. It matters because he wants you to know, and he goes to great pains to spell it out for you more than once.”
The first day of class, Mr. Spang assigned us to fill out an info sheet, asking us about our favorite books, movies, etc. I had just finished Godless: The Church of Liberalism, by Ann Coulter, and I wrote that book down as my favorite book. I could tell from the crinkling of his eyes that I had made the wrong choice. I knew I was in trouble in this class when Mr. Spang first assigned vocabulary words. I used the word “agnostic” in the sentence, “Atheists do not believe in a higher power, but agnostics are unsure of the existence of one.” When I got the assignment back, the first part of the sentence was circled, crossed out and points were deducted. His comment was, “Yes they do.” I’m sorry, what?
Sophomore English has the distinction of being the first class of mine to have a teacher use the word “f–k,” openly push propaganda on his students, and inform his students that the only reason for their intelligence was due to their family’s wealth. It was also the first class where I ever received a letter from a teacher telling me that I was not only a poor writer, but also naïve due to my pro-life views (thankfully, this remains the only class where that has happened).
The letter criticizing both my writing and my beliefs was the single most offensive thing that has ever happened to me in my academic career. My teacher found it appropriate and acceptable to type out a single-spaced, reduced-margin, ten-point-font letter attacking my writing skills (I’m currently the assistant news editor of my campus paper as well as a writer on TheCollegeConservative) and saying that I was wrong for being pro-life. I was told I was “naïve” for thinking that way, and that he had known “several women who have had abortions” who are all doing just fine. The assignment that prompted this letter was to write a letter similar to Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letters from Birmingham Jail. I made the fatal error of writing from the point of view of a pro-lifer—whoops! Though my parents complained to the administration, it did absolutely nothing to discipline him for attacking a student on a personal level.
Mr. Spang went out of his way to make his students feel uncomfortable, and definitely not in one of those new-age “make your students go beyond their boundaries” uncomfortable. He kept copies of his poetry books on his whiteboard in class; one of his poems was noteworthy for comparing the springing up of flowers to erect penises. He often prattled on in class about how his upbringing was “so different” from ours and how troubled his life was due to his sexuality (never mind that the man grew up in suburban Illinois, went to DePauw University, and was married with children for a while). Despite numerous complaints from the majority of my classmate’s parents, he was able to continue teaching us completely uncensored.
Perhaps the most troubling fact was that Mr. Spang deviated from the set curriculum of books and instead had us read things that pushed his agenda. One book was the paragon literary excellence that is Black Elk Speaks. Its academic legitimacy and the veracity of the account are both questionable, yet it was presented as gospel truth in my class. He also preached that global warming was fact, using the excuse, “Look outside!” on an unseasonably warm day in October (strangely, when it snowed extremely early that year, my interjection of “Look outside!” was not acceptable), and he assured us that none of us had ever experienced any hardship due to our “privileged” upbringing in suburban Maine.
Mr. Spang’s English class is evidence that educational biases have gone beyond the higher-education level and have begun to permeate into lower grades. The American public school has transformed itself from a place of learning into a place of indoctrination. Teachers do not try to keep their own personal biases a secret any longer. I had numerous teachers display Obama campaign paraphernalia during the 2008 election, and one teacher even had a life-size cut out of the president in his classroom after his election. I watched the Obama inauguration with three of my teachers after a midterm exam. One of my teachers began tearing up during it.
I’m especially worried for the next generation of students at Scarborough High. My little brother is a junior there, and he’s currently doing a paper about Bartolomeo Vanzetti (of the Sacco and Vanzetti trial) implying he was innocent. He has been so brainwashed by his classes that he would not even consider any information that suggested they were guilty. One of his friends asked me, horrified, why I thought they were guilty when they were “so clearly completely innocent.” The young children of Scarborough, Maine are being taught to accept everything that is spoon-fed to them in school, and they are discouraged from questioning anything. This worries me.
It’s only fitting to say that my standardized test scores from sophomore year showed a marked decrease in English language and reading skills. This did not surprise me at all. I was far too busy being indoctrinated into acceptance of global warming, homosexuality, and multiculturalism to learn silly things like English grammar.
Christine Rousselle // Providence College // @Crousselle