EMBARRASSED OUT OF PUBLIC SCHOOLING
EMBARRASSED INTO ENLIGHTENMENT
EMBARRASSED OUT OF SCHOOL
"A socially awkward boy with no friends turns his forced years of public schooling into one big "Acting Class" by convincing everyone that there is something wrong with him to make school more amusing and he ends up becoming the most popular kid at school, but through his greatest teacher ("Mr. Embarrassment") he also ends up learning some really dark and terrible secrets about the public education system."
My parents homeschooled me until I was 15 years old, but then then the law stepped in and told them that they could no longer do it and that I had to start attending a public school like everyone else so I could get a standard education. Because I was 15 at the time they started me in the 9th grade so I could technically reach the 12th grade and graduate when I was 18. The following is my story of going to a public High School in Southern Ohio subject by subject including "Art", "Gym", "Health", "Reading", "Writing", "Math", "History", "Science", and finally the subject that changed my life forever, "Acting".
When I was in school I refused to participate in "Art Class" because I am an artist, and as an artist I would be way too embarrassed to produce art that I was forced by someone else to make and that I would never want anyone else to see and think that I came up with it on my own.
Instead of letting us draw whatever we wanted to the art teacher would draw something on the chalkboard like a dog, a tree, or a house and tell everyone to follow along and draw what they were drawing, and I just couldn't do it for the same reason that even well known artists such as "Metallica" (who always get accused of "selling out") would probably refuse to make a Christmas album even if their manager told them to and even if it was guaranteed to sell millions of copies, because within every artist there is a point where no amount of money could ever outweigh the embarrassment of sharing art with the world when just the thought of anyone ever seeing it causes them to cringe and lose sleep at night.
The art teacher would even tell us that he had a big fire-proof safe at home where he kept some artwork from every one of his student just in case any of them ever went on to become famous, and I worried that someday I would achieve my dream of becoming a famous artist and that drawings that I was forced to make in art class would end up in museums as art that I came up with in my youth, so I refused to do anything artistic in art class... However, in my other classes I would often find creative ways to turn mandatory class projects into fun and exciting art projects. For example...
For my "Science Project" I was at least given the freedom to do whatever I wanted to, so I took a "Cowardly Lion" costume that my Dad had worn in a church play and put it inside a closet that had a "moth problem", and timed it to see how long it would take the moths to eat a "Cowardly Lion" costume. (I got an "F" on this project, but I enjoyed working on it because I was genuinely curious to see how long it would take the moths to eat it... It took them 43 days.)
And during a test about "World War 2" in "World History Class" I suddenly became overwhelmed with inspiration, so I left all of the answers blank and turned the test paper over to the blank side and drew a picture of a bunch of senile old people at Walmart opening boxes of soap and I called it, "Old People Opening Boxes Of Soap Just To See If There Is Really Soap In Them". (Not only did I get a 0% on this test but I actually got suspended from school for 3 days for refusing to do the test.)
Luckily I cared a lot more about art than I did about my grade card, but sadly I went to school with a lot of other young and promising artists who became convinced at school that the art they loved creating so much was nothing more than a "childhood hobby" (or even worse a "childish hobby") that needed to be put away as they approached adulthood so that they could focus on getting good grades and making it to a good college so they could be "successful" in the real world.
And for the kids like me who remained young at heart and showed no signs of ever losing their natural desire to be be artists the principle had a secret weapon up his sleeve...
After a few months of going to school the principle ("Mr. Dean") called my parents and told them that I was showing the signs of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and said that I couldn't return to school until I saw a doctor about it, so I was taken to a doctor who prescribed me a drug that was designed to help kids who couldn't focus at school. Because I was young and naive at the time and all of the adults around me were telling me that I lacked the ability to concentrate and needed help I saw no reason not to take the drug. But when I looked at the long list of potential "side effects" that the drug caused and saw words like, "Diarrhea", "Vomiting", "Sweating", "Twitching", "Fainting", "Hallucinations", and "Seizures" my mind was flooded with a million potential embarrassing experiences that I could end up having at school if I took the drug. So when my parents would give me the pill I would secretly hide it under my tongue and spit it out when they weren't looking, and I never did take the drug.
There were other kids like me at school who just wanted to be creative, and like me they ALL ended up being diagnosed as having ADD. For example, there was a boy named "Brandon" who sat next to me in history class who was a drummer and who started his own heavy metal band. He had wild spiky hair and would always wear all black clothing, and during classes he would often be writing song lyrics instead of paying attention to the teacher or he would have 2 pencils in his hands and would be air drumming and headbanging. Eventually he was put on the same drugs that I was prescribed to get him to sit still and pay attention in class, and within a few months of being on the drugs his grades started to improve. However, he also stopped dressing in all black clothing and even started to comb his hair down, and by the end of the school year he was no longer playing drums. When asked why he decided to stop playing drums he would say that his heavy metal drumming days were just a part of an embarrassing "goth phase" that he was going through at the time, and that he would rather just forget about that part of his past and move on.
When the principle would see the "new and improved" version of "Brandon" he would often put his arm around him and say that he was proud of him, and it made me feel grateful that I never took the drug, because I finally realized that "Brandon" never really lacked the ability to concentrate. In fact, his concentration was far greater than the average person's, and he was concentrating so much on what he was most passionate about (music) that it was all he wanted to do. For someone like "Brandon" being forced to have to sit still and listen to boring lectures for several hours a day at school instead of being able to play drums and create the high energy music that he felt that he was born to create was like taking a wild animal out of the jungle and forcing it to live inside of a small cage, and the wild behavioral problems that "Brandon" was showing in class were similar to the symptoms that wild animals exhibit when they are forced to live in unnatural confinement. School was a cruel and inhumane form of captivity for creative kids like "Brandon", and I believe that what the principle was really proud of was the fact that "Brandon" was becoming more of an "average student" and less of a wild and untamed "individual".
Creativity can't be taught in school (not even in "Art Class") because preschoolers are already overflowing with it, and as "Maya Angelou" once said, "You can�t use up creativity, and the more you use it the more you will have!" Therefore, a young child's creativity can only be "encouraged" or "discouraged" at school, and the fact that so many children are artists before they start going to school and so few of them are still artists when they finish school shows that during their time in school their creativity is met with far more discouragement then encouragement.
I never participated in "Gym Class" because it was mandatory that everyone went into the locker room and changed into gym shorts or sweat pants at the beginning of class and I was simply too uncomfortable to change in front of the other boys. So I always got a 0% in gym class and the gym teacher ("Mr. Ashley") would make me sit in the bleachers and watch the other kids play.
I actually really enjoyed gym class and would laugh a lot because "Mr. Ashley" was a really old man who would cuss a lot. I thought it was funny how angry he would get over a "game". (Which by definition is supposed to be fun.) Sometimes he would get so mad that he would throw down his clip board or kick over a trash can and look like he was going to have a heart attack just because one of the kids made a bad play. (One of the other boys in class lived next door to "Mr. Ashley" and said that the police would get called to "Mr. Ashley's" house a lot during "Ohio State" football games because he would literally start to tear up his own house whenever "Ohio State" was losing.)
"Mr. Ashley" was also really patriotic and would make everyone stand up and recite "The Pledge Of Allegiance" at the start of class. Sometimes he would start to tear up and cry during the pledge as he proudly looked up at the American flag, which was funny to me because although he claimed to love America the truth was that he hated 49 out of the 50 states because of their football teams. (In fact, the boy who lived next door to him said that one time a car pulled up in "Mr. Ashley's" driveway and 2 men got out and knocked on his door claiming that they were lost and needed directions. When "Mr. Ashley" asked the 2 men where they were from they said "Michigan" and because of the rivalry between the "Ohio State" and "Michigan State" football teams he got really mad and told them that they had 10 seconds to get off his property before he shot them for "trespassing", so they ran back in their car and as they were backing out of his driveway he came running outside with a shotgun and started wildly shooting it in the air to scare them away.)
And although he "appeared" to really love the state of Ohio, (He would almost always be wearing an official "Ohio State" football shirt, hat, jacket, sweatpants, watch... and probably underwear as well.) the truth was that he hated almost everyone in Ohio. He hated everyone who lived in the neighboring towns because those towns competed against our High School foot ball team (which he coached) and he also hated the more distant areas of Ohio like Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus because they were big cities and according to him were quote, "Full of Blacks".) So his proclaimed patriotism and "Ohio Pride" seemed really hypocritical and funny to me.
"An Outsider's Perspective"
One day after months of refusing to participate in gym class I got called to the principle's office over it and rather than just admitting that I was too embarrassed to take my pants off in front of the other boys I simply told the principle that I didn't see any point in gym class. He responded by telling me that kids in America were fatter than ever before (and that millions of kids were even dying each year due to the "obesity epidemic") and that we needed gym class because it was the most effective tool that schools had at keeping their kids physically active and healthy. What he said made a lot of sense to me so when I went back to gym class I thought about it as I watched the other kids playing from the bleachers, but as I watched closely I was disturbed by what I saw...
I noticed that the kids who were out-of-shape and needed exercise the most would get "dominated" and often ridiculed and embarrassed by the kids who were already fit and strong. I paid particular attention to "Josh" who was the most overweight kid in the class. I watched as "Mr. Ashley" made all of the kids "warm up" by running 10 laps around the gym and poor "Josh" ran out of breath and had to stop running before he could even finish one lap. (Which resulted in a lot of the other kids laughing and making fun of him for it.) Then after the "warm up" it was time to play baseball and as usual "Josh" was the last kid to get picked to be on a team. During the game "Josh" went really deep into the ball field and it was obvious that he was hoping and praying that the ball wouldn't come anywhere near him since he had learned from experience that any involvement in the game would result in a humiliating experience, and because of this he spent most of the game standing still and getting even less physical movement than he would if he was in Math class! And when it was the dreaded time for "Josh" to go to bat he nervously stood at home plate with the bat in his hands (I could literally see him shaking even though I was over 100 feet away in the bleachers.) and when the pitcher would throw the ball to him he would swing clumsily and miss every time (which would make the opposing team laugh at him and his own team mad at him) and when his team lost the game they unfairly put all the blame solely on him.
As I was watching "Josh" I suddenly had one of my visions where I can transcend space and time and experience what it is like to be someone else during a really embarrassing situation...
The Future Of Josh
I suddenly became "Josh" and it was 10 years in the future. I was now in my mid-20's and was still really overweight. I wanted to get in shape, but I would tell myself that I couldn't go to the local gym and workout because the people at the gym would surely laugh and make fun of me like the people at my High School gym would, and I couldn't go for jogs down the street because I imagined that the people driving by would laugh (and might even stick their heads out the window and yell embarrassing insults at me) just like the sight of me trying to run laps around the High School gym would always result in laughter and insults. And although they sold fitness equipment at my local Wal-Mart I couldn't bring myself to buy anything like that because I shopped there a lot and the cashiers knew me by name, and I just knew that if they saw that I was buying fitness equipment and was planning on getting in shape they would secretly be judging me anytime I shopped there in the future if I was still out of shape and was still buying junk food. So it seemed that I was doomed to be overweight forever...
But then one night as I was channel surfing I stumbled onto an infomercial for a special workout machine called the "BOW FLEX". There were a lot of really slim and beautiful people in the infomercial with incredible "Before" and "After" photos, and I felt so inspired by their transformations and so excited about the idea of being able to get results like that in the privacy of my own home that I decided to pick up the phone and order a "Bow Flex"!
I was so happy that I was about to start my journey to becoming fit and not have to deal with anyone I knew judging me along the way, but unfortunately when the "BOW FLEX" arrived at my house it came in the biggest and most non-discrete box ever! There was a big picture of a male fitness model using the machine on the front of the box that could be seen from several houses away. I nervously peeked through the curtains in my living room as the delivery guy took forever just getting it out of his truck and by the time he hauled it to my door several of my neighbors were outside curiously watching and talking to each other. I felt so embarrassed and to make matters worse the delivery guy was really tone and muscular like the fitness model on the box, and I imagined that he would struggle not to laugh if I opened the door and he saw how out-of-shape I was, and that he would be thinking to himself, "This guy is probably going to use this workout machine once or twice and then he'll just start using it as a clothes hanger."
When he knocked on the door I was way too embarrassed to open it so I pretended that I wasn't home and hoped that he would just leave it outside, and then once it got dark and my neighbors were asleep I could try to drag the big and heavy box inside without an audience watching me, but it turned out that he needed my signature so he started knocking louder and shouting, "Is there a "Josh Howard" living here?" I didn't know what to do. There was no way that I could go outside and sign for it because I was in my "house clothes". (Which was a pair of shorts that I had outgrown and could no longer zip up or button but that actually felt really comfortable to me when I was home alone and watching TV, and a shirt that had lots of food stains on it.) Plus I was worried that he would insist on helping bring the box inside and my house was so cluttered with empty soda cans and junk food wrappers that it would take me at least 10 minutes just to �hide� it all from him.
Then after about 5 minutes the knocking finally stopped and I heard the sound of him walking away from the door. I waited a minute and then went over to the door and looked through the "peek hole". I didn't see him anywhere, but his delivery truck was still parked on the street. "Where is he???" I wondered to myself. I then tip toed over to my living room window and when I slowly pulled back the curtain I was startled to see his face looking right at me through the window! I quickly closed the curtain but it was too late, he saw me, so he started pounding on the window and yelling, "Hey, I know you're home! I need your signature! I can't just leave your workout equipment here without authorization!"
At that point the whole neighborhood was watching and I was so embarrassed and unsure what to do that I went to the bathroom, shut the door, and turned the shower on to cover up the sound of him knocking and yelling. "My life is over." I thought to myself and it seemed that suicide was my only way out of this, but then I thought about "Robert Earl Hughes" (the world's heaviest man at the time) who people would often compare me to and who was rumored to have been buried in a piano box when he died because he was too big for a normal casket, and I imagined just how embarrassing it would be if I died and they ended up having to bury me in the empty (and never used) "Bow Flex" box...
I was then forcefully snapped out of the vision and back to reality when one of the kids playing baseball hit a home run and the baseball slammed into the bleachers about 10 feet from where I was sitting which resulted in a really loud "BANG" that caused me to jump up and scream in horror.
Once my heart rate slowed back down and I caught my breath I looked down at the other kids who were all laughing at me, but I noticed that one of the kids wasn't laughing. "Josh" was looking up at me somewhat sympathetically. I wondered if he somehow knew about the vision I just had about his future or if he was just so used to being teased and laughed at that he simply couldn't get enjoyment from doing it to someone else. As we looked at each other from a distance our eyes locked and the fact that he was the most overweight kid in class and that I was the skinniest kid in class was no longer obvious. I couldn't help but feel as though I was looking at myself in a mirror. I smiled at him and right away he started smiling back. He then started waving at me and I immediately started waving back at him. It then hit me that I really was looking at myself in a mirror. (A funny mirror that caused me to look a little bit shorter and a lot "wider" due to the fact that Josh had different parents and different life experiences than myself.) I then realized that "Josh" was another version of myself, and I didn't want to see him end up with the terrible fate that I had envisioned!
I started wondering to myself why the gym at my school wasn't more like a public gym full of weights, treadmills, and other exercise equipment so that everyone could work towards their own personal fitness goals in a supportive environment, rather than competing against each other in sports where there must be "winners" and "losers". When I saw the principle again I asked him about this and he said that it would be way too expensive for the school to buy all that fitness equipment. (Which made sense to me at first, but then it occurred to me that even prisons provide a gym like that for their inmates.) He also said that "Competition brings out the best in people!" and that competitive sports were a highly effective way of burning fat, but realistically I knew full well that no adult who is overweight and wanting to get in shape would actually pay for a gym membership if the gym offered no fitness equipment and any time they went to the gym they were going to be put on teams and have to play "dodge ball" with other people. It seemed to me that if the school genuinely cared about the obesity epidemic they would be able to come up with a far more effective form of physical education than the one that was being offered.
I then shifted my attention to the fit kids in gym class and realized that many of them would actually suffer an even worse fate than "Josh"...
The kids who possessed a lot of physical strength and athletic potential would usually end up getting involved in physical contact sports like football. (And if they showed no interest in it "Mr. Ashley" would do his best to "recruit" them.) I also noticed that just like a drill sergeant "Mr. Ashley" would always call any of the boys who were on the football team by their last names instead of their first names...
- "Smith", go long!"
- "Thompson", pass the ball!"
- "Baker", drop and give me 25 push ups!"
And like soldiers he encouraged these kids to view the ball field as the "battle field", to view the competition as the "enemy", and to view the game as a �war�.
One time I was in the school library looking through a copy of the yearbook and in the section where they were asking the seniors what their favorite moment from High School was the answers for the athletic kids were always things like....
- "The time we crushed Fairfield!"
- "The time we totally destroyed Athens 59 to 7!"
- "The time we slaughtered Alexander in front of their home crowd!"
Sadly many of these kids would end up with concussions, bad knees, and other physical injuries that would shorten their athletic careers, and by the time they were in their early 20's a lot of them would already be like "Mr. Ashley"... (Full of hate and yelling at their TV as they watched other people playing the game that they could no longer play.)
- Time has shown that the physical injuries suffered in physical contact sports can come back to haunt people for the rest of their life.
- Time has shown that the psychological scar of "being the kid who always got picked last to play kick ball" can have a negative effect on a person's confidence for the rest of their life.
- Time has shown that laughter provides more exercise and more overall health benefits than the average High School gym class. So ironically the kid in my gym class who was getting the best physical exercise and best physical education of all was actually me. (The kid who didn't even participate and who just observed humorously from a distance.) I burned just as many calories (if not more) than the other kids who were actually participating by laughing at the way that "Mr. Ashley" would constantly be yelling and cussing at everyone, and I also stayed completely injury free, but most importantly I learned that the best form of physical exercise is when there is no "competition" to defeat and you simply focus on becoming better than you used to be.
On a sad note, "Mr. Ashley" (who would always yell at me for laughing in class and tell me that I had better start getting "serious" about life since I was almost 18 and could be drafted into the ARMY to serve this great nation) ended up having a heart attack and dying during my last year of High School. (And it just so happened that he had his heart attack in his living room... And it was while watching an "Ohio State" football game!)
During the winter when I was 16 years old my Dad told me that he was finally going to let me go �deer hunting� with him for the first time and I was looking forward to it. (Although part of me kept thinking about the Disney movie "Bambi" and how I would always feel sad during the scene when "Bambi's" mother got shot by a hunter.) But as fate would have it just one week before "Deer Season" began I showed up at school and everyone was really mad at the late night talk show host "Jay Leno" because he actually made fun of our High School on his show.
What happened was is that he had a segment on his show called "Headlines" where he would show funny pictures from newspapers that viewers would send him, and someone had sent him a picture of our High School prom that was featured in the local newspaper. When he showed the picture everyone in the audience laughed because my High School was way out in the country and a lot of the boys actually showed up to the prom wearing hunting stuff like camouflage pants and neon orange hats because that was considered being "dressed to impress" by a lot of the people where I was from.
Jay Leno also made a comment that the couples in the picture looked really "close" and that judging from the looks of it some of them might already have the same last name. I didn't understand the joke until a kid at my church who was from the city ("Salt Lake City" Utah to be exact) and had been living in Ohio for only about a year informed me that a lot of the people in southern Ohio would be viewed as "rednecks" by people who lived in the city. I asked him what a "redneck" was and he said that it was a stereotype for poor, uneducated, and racist white men from the south who marry their own cousin and who have a small penis and try to compensate for it by going out into the woods with a big rifle and shooting innocent animals with it. When he told me this I got really nervous because it had always been my plan that once I finished High School I would move to the city in order to find a job. So I nervously asked him if he thought that people in the city would think that I was a "redneck". He then carefully looked me up and down while scratched his chin and squinting his eyes, and said, "I don't know................ Maybe."
I didn't want anyone to think that I was a "redneck", so I decided to distance myself from all of the things that "rednecks" were stereotyped for (including hunting) and when my Dad woke me up at 4:00AM on the first day of "Deer Season" and enthusiastically asked me, "So are you ready to shoot your first deer?" I pretended to be sick and didn't go with him.
Because deer hunting was so common in my area my High School was closed for a week during "Deer Season" so all the boys could go hunting, and when school started back up again a lot of the boys brought pictures to show everyone of them and their dad's posing with the dead deer that they shot. I felt disturbed by these images (They were 1,000 times more graphic than the sad scene in the movie "Bambi"!) and the health teacher ("Mr. Spalding") tried to make me feel better by bringing up another Disney movie ("The Lion King") and saying that it was just "The Circle Of Life", and then he told me that I should take comfort in knowing that most of the families in our community were religious and would always "thank" the deer out of respect for giving them it's life. I couldn't believe what I had just heard, so I asked "Mr. Spalding", "How is taking a picture of yourself smiling while standing over a dead animal that you killed showing it respect?" and even more troubling I asked myself, "What will future generations think when they look back at old hunting photos and see that not only did we drive all of the lions, giraffes, and elephants into extinction but we did it with a smile on our face and while proudly boasting, "Look at the one I killed!" (It would be one thing if someone had to hunt animals in order survive and feed their family, but to take joy in the killing and to even have the severed heads of the victims mounted on my living room wall and refer to them as "trophies" will surely not be viewed as "respectful" by people in the future when there are no more of these animals left.)
"Mr. Spalding" then got kind of upset and told me that the deer population was out of control and that we had no choice but to hunt them because there were so many deer that they were wandering into people's property and eating out of their garden, and that they were even wandering into the streets and causing traffic accidents! I couldn't think of a good counter argument for that so I said nothing at first, but then it suddenly hit me that every single one of the dead deer in the pictures the kids brought to school had antlers (and the bigger the antlers the more proud the kid was to have shot it) which meant that all of the dead deer were males. I wondered about this and asked the teacher why all of the deer that were killed were males. He said that the males ("Bucks") have impressive antlers that make good decorations for living room walls and that it is customary to let the females and the babies live. (Maybe the fact that I was raised in the "Mormon" church and came from a family history of "polygamy" made it a lot more obvious to me then to other people that all it takes is one male to impregnate dozens or even hundreds of females.) As a matter of fact, even in health class when we would have lectures about "safety" we were always taught that in an emergency situation we should remember the golden rule, "Women and children first" because saving the women and children is the best way to ensure that life will go on... (Put bluntly, adult males are more "disposable" than women and children in the grand scheme of keeping a population growing, because even if you kill so many of the males that there is now only 1 male left for every 10 females the population will quickly regenerate, and continue to be deemed "out of control" year after year.
The more I thought about all of this the more I started to think that if there was any species on Earth who's population was "out of control" it was definitely the human population! (When me and my parents would drive to visit my grandparents who lived in the city I would look out the window and watch the human population becoming more and more dense as we approached the city. During the trip there the number of houses would go up and the number of trees would go down until we eventually got to the city where there were no forests at all and therefore no deer, and I realized that the more we cut down the forests the more we were leaving the deer with nowhere to roam that wasn't deemed "human territory", even though the deer were here long before we were.)
Even in "Health Class" there was never any discussions about the health of the planet that we all lived on, or the effects that we as a species were having on it. In fact, we were all encouraged to get married and have a traditional big family as soon as we became adults without ever giving even a moment's thought to the fact that the human population was over 5 BILLION at the time and showed no signs of slowing down! (But everyone at school could tell you how big the local deer population currently was and how we had to do something about it quick before the deer overpopulated and devastated the environment!)
"Dissecting A Frog"
Once "Deer Season" was over and the weather warmed back up we had to dissect a frog in health class and I protested and told teacher that I didn't want to kill a frog. I wasn't alone either because several of the girls in class said that they also didn't want to do it, but because it counted as 50% of our overall grade that quarter they ultimately decided to do it. (There were also a couple of boys in class who expressed some guilt about having to do it, but they immediately started getting teased by the other boys for "acting like a girl" and not being "man enough" to do it so they quickly suppressed their emotions and went through with it.) One of the boys in class told me that I would be the ultimate coward if I couldn't dissect a frog and it was then that I realized first hand that real courage is being able to stand up and do what you feel is right even when faced with the threat of punishment and ridicule from others, and I'm proud to say that I stood up, I walked over to the window, and I let my frog go free outside.
Later that day at lunch they were serving hot dogs and green beans and just looking at the hot dogs made me sick to my stomach, but I had to eat so when I got to the counter I told the old lady who was serving the food that I would like a hot dog, but instead of a regular hot dog I would just like a hot dog bun filled with green beans. She looked at me with a really confused and almost frightened expression on her face and asked, "Are you sure?" I quietly nodded �Yes� trying not to attract any unwanted attention from any of the other kids standing behind me in line, and she looked around as if she didn't know if she was even allowed to do what I was asking her to do. (I have to admit that even I felt a bit silly asking for something like that, but the school lunch options were extremely limited back then.) She then shook her head in disapproval and reluctantly gave it to me, and of course once I got into the cafeteria and everyone saw that I was eating a hot dog bun full of green beans instead of a regular hot dog they all started laughing and making fun of me for it.
I decided to become a vegetarian for ethical reasons and everyday at lunch I would get teased relentlessly by the other kids for eating "rabbit food" and the cafeteria monitor ("Mr. Rickets") who was really overweight would especially get upset over what I was eating and would tell me that I was too skinny and needed "protein". For some reason he seemed threatened by my dietary choices and one day to embarrass me in front of the other kids he made me sit in a chair by myself in front of a big poster on the cafeteria wall that showed the "4 Basic Food Groups" and told me that I had better learn it.
The poster said that there were 4 Food Groups that were necessary for good health and they were...
4. "Fruits & Vegetables"
I examined the poster very carefully, but there just didn't seem to be any "loop holes" in the chart for people like me who wanted to avoid eating animals, and this chart was even taught in our school health books, so I started to worry that going vegetarian was a big mistake and that I should start eating meat again like everyone else or else I would end up getting sick and die!
But then I noticed that in really small lettering on the bottom left hand corner of the poster it said, "Brought to you by the American Dairy Association." The fact that the dairy industry was responsible for this chart combined with the fact that they were also one of the 4 food groups that the chart was claiming we had to consume in order to be healthy (4 servings of dairy per day for strong and healthy bones if you are a teenager) seemed very suspicious to me. Plus, being raised on a farm I was fully aware of the fact that the meat industry had a very close business relationship with the dairy industry since all dairy cows are ultimately given to the meat industry to be slaughtered and turned into hamburger once they can no longer produce enough milk, and the chart was also claiming that we needed to eat meat every day to be healthy. (2 - 3 servings of meat per day to meet protein requirements if you are a teenager) It seemed possible to me that the recommendations of this chart weren't really based on truth and that the chart was actually just an advertisement designed to get people to consume more meat and dairy, but I couldn't prove it at the time so I continued to live in fear about not being able to get enough "protein"...
A few months after I became a vegetarian it was announced that "Coca-Cola" was donating $10,000 to our High School, which seemed like a very generous thing to do. (A mega successful multi-billion dollar company giving back to the community by investing in childhood education.) But shortly after this announcement was made 3 brand new "Coca-Cola" vending machines were delivered to our school, and although it had always been forbidden to drink soda pop during school (unless it was during lunch) and although we had always been told by teachers that we really shouldn't be drinking soda at all since it was bad for our health, a new rule was announced that as long as it was a "Coca-Cola" we could drink soda any time of day and even during classes! Posters for "Coca-Cola" were also hung up in the school hallways and the "Coca-Cola" logo was even sewn onto all of our school's sports jerseys. (When "Coca-Cola" had donated that $10,000 to our school they did so under an agreement that the school would sell and promote "Coke" products to the students, which would lead to the kids becoming loyal consumers of the brand at a young age.) I then watched as the same teachers who used to warn us about how unhealthy soda was actually started telling us that there was nothing wrong with kids enjoying a soda as long as it was "in moderation" and as long as it was a "Coca-Cola" since the "Coca-Cola" company was a highly charitable organization that cared about our education.
Shortly after the "Coca-Cola" vending machines were put in the school the McDonalds restaurant near our school started giving school children that ate there something called "McBucks". (Which were dollar bills with the face of "Ronald McDonald" on them instead of a dead president like "George Washington", and this �money� could be used by schools towards the purchase of certain school supplies such as new school books, new desks, new chalkboards, etc.) So the idea behind this promotion was that the more kids ate at McDonalds the more money they could collect for their schools to use towards a better education. Because of this promotion the teachers actually started telling us to please ask our parents to take us to McDonalds so we could get "McBucks" and the school could afford to get newer and better stuff. And even the health teacher "Mr. Spalding" actually started telling us that not only was a McDonalds cheeseburger OK to eat, but it was actually a really healthy choice because it provided us with all 4 of the necessary food groups...
1. Meat (Hamburger)
2. Dairy (Cheese)
3. Grain (Bun)
4. Fruits & Vegetables (Pickles & Ketchup)
Plus a McDonald's cheeseburger was high in "protein"!
Then one day a big picture was put on display in the school lobby of the principle "Mr. Dean" standing outside of the local McDonalds while proudly shaking hands with someone dressed up as Ronald McDonald in honor of this promotion. Everyone thought that it was a cute and funny picture, but for me personally it made me realize that the diet that we were being encouraged to eat at school had absolutely nothing to do with health and had everything to do with greed. I thought back to when the principle talked to me about how serious the obesity crisis was in America, and now he was openly welcoming companies like "Coca-Cola" and "McDonalds" into our school just because they were bribing the school with money. And once again I had that uncomfortable feeling that I was living in a really embarrassing time in history, and that people in the future would surely look back at pictures like this one of a High School principle shaking hands with Ronald McDonald and be shaking their heads in disbelief at how we behaved.
I wanted no part of it and decided then and there to take my health into my own hands!
(THE 3 R's - "READING", "WRITING", &
"The Critical Learning Period"
There is a very important time during early adolescence between the ages of 5 and 12 known as the "Critical Learning Period" when our ability to learn new things is incredibly strong, and if you miss this powerful window of opportunity it can be very difficult (and in some cases even impossible) to ever be able to learn certain basic things...
For example, the ability to talk is believed to be something that must be learned during early childhood or else it can never be learned. There have actually been quite a few documented cases of "Feral Children" (Children who were abandoned by their parents as babies and who ended up being raised by wild animals such as stray dogs, monkeys, or even wolves instead of humans.) and so far any time that a "Feral Child" over the age of 12 was discovered living in the wild and was captured and placed into human society they were not able to learn how to talk. (Like an animal, a person who was raised by animals can usually learn how to understand several basic words such as �Yes� and "No" and they can recognize their own name, but none of them have ever able to actually learn how to talk fluently because their early brain development simply wasn't stimulated in the necessary way for them to be able to develop the capacity for human language. (And in many cases "Feral Children" grew up learning how to communicate vocally by barking like a dog, whistling like a bird, or howling like a wolf!)
A lot of people believe that kids need to go to school because if they don't they won't learn "The Basic" and we will end up with a society full of adults who don't know how to read, write or do math, but based on my own experience not only do I not believe that this is true, but below is why I believe that public schooling it's self can lead to a society full of adults who can't read, write, or do math...
I learned "The Basics" at home long before I started going to school by watching PBS programs like "Sesame Street" and by having loving parents who would read me stories, would encourage me to write in my journal, and who would listen to the hundreds of questions that I would ask in a day and answer them to the best of their ability.
I was especially good at math as a young boy. As soon as I learned how to count I would always go outside at night when the stars were out and then run back inside to tell my Dad how many stars I counted, and when my Dad started teaching me about outer space I was so fascinated that I quickly developed my math skills so that I could understand the really big numbers when he would tell me things like that the sun was so big that you could fit over 1 million Earths inside of it, or that the nearest star ("Alpha Centauri") was 25 trillion miles away from us, or that the estimated number of stars in the visible universe is 1 septillion! (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or a 1 with 24 zeros after it!) My mind was constantly being given reasons to want to expand and grow!
There was also something "magical" to me about math. As a matter of fact, I learned at a very young age that if I could solve a big math problem in my head really fast and without the aid of a calculator the adults at my church would react with the same amazement that they would if they had just witnessed a magician perform an incredible magic trick and they would always ask me, "How did you do that???" (They would even call me a math "wizard" as if it was a magical power.)
When I started going to school I was introduced to a way of learning that was no where near as exciting or stimulating as the way that I was used to. (Plus if I had a question at school I had to raise my hand, and raising my hand more than 2 or 3 times during a class would usually result in the teacher getting frustrated and telling me to stop asking so many questions. (And some times teachers would even try to reduce the number of questions getting asked by making fun of kids for asking "stupid questions" and by telling them that if if they are in High School they should already know the answer, so sometimes kids would be too afraid to raise their hands and risk looking dumb in front of everyone.)
It is important to note that after "Jay Leno" made fun of my High School on his show he then started to make fun of public schooling in general in a segment he had called "Jaywalking"� where he would go up to teenagers who were in High School or young adults who had recently graduated from High School and ask them basic questions such as, "How many days are in a year?" and a lot of these young people would have no idea, which exposed the embarrassing fact that the American public education system was failing. Keep in mind that the internet wasn't around when I was a kid, so back then kids couldn't just ask "Google" for answers, and like I said, kids were trained at school not to ask basic questions such as "How many days are in a year?" and that it would be better to stay ignorant than to deal with the embarrassment of looking ignorant in front of the whole class... (Which means that if they ever find themselves on live television at any point in their adult life they could easily end up embarrassing themselves by saying something that makes them look ignorant in front of millions of people!)
And although kids were learning "The Basics" of reading, writing, and arithmetic at school they were being forced to learn them in a way that caused them to not enjoy "The Basics"... As a "math lover" it was kind of depressing to me that pretty much every single day at school I would overhear kids saying things like "I'm not any good at math." or "I suck at math." or even "I hate math!", and every year on the last day of school the seniors who were about to graduate would be happily singing the lyrics "No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks!"
So yes, the kids who successfully complete 12 year of public schooling graduate knowing how to read, write, and do math, but according to statistics 1/3 of all High School graduates in the U.S. will never read another book again once they are out of High School, because although they �can� read they chose not to because they spent 12 years being forced to read books that they had no interest in and therefore they have no desire to ever read a book again now that they don't have to. And because they stopped reading their writing skills will suffer. (Just read some comments posted on the internet and you'll see how much society's grammar is degenerating.) And despite the fact that they endured 12 years of math classes, unless they have a calculator with them most High School graduates would struggle with virtually any math problem that shows up in their adult life. (As the old saying goes, "Use It Or Lose It". Skills not used will weaken over time, and a High School graduate's reading, writing, and math skills will go all the way back to a 1st grade level in a fairly short amount of time if they never use them.)
Plus so much of the information taught in school is information that isn't necessary to know in the first place. Kids will use their "short term memory" to memorize facts and figures for tests and then quickly forget almost all of this information once the testing is over since almost none of it is relevant or useful in their every day lives. (One of the first things that I had to do when I started going to school was memorize a map of "Ohio" so that I could fill out all of the 88 counties on a blank map. I was able to memorize the map and successfully fill it out but then about a month later I saw a copy of the blank map and thought to myself that I didn't even remember the names of most of the counties, much less where any of them went on the map.) And ironically, little (if any) time time at school was actually spent teaching us how to be self reliant. (How to garden, how to cook, how to repair things, how to defend ourselves, how to spend money wisely, and how to effectively deal with stress.)
My parents were accused of "child abuse" because of the fact that they "home schooled" me until I was 15, but looking back at my childhood if there is one thing that I am grateful for it is the fact that my parents were able to keep me out of the public school system until I had already passed the "Critical Learning Period" and I still had a chance of making it to adulthood with my inner child still alive and well... (But I knew that it would take a miracle for that to happen because many of the teachers at school were plotting to make sure that no child would finish school with their inner child still alive, and the teachers were also really starting to watch me closely since I was so "weird" and because I was still daydreaming in class even though I was supposedly on drugs that were meant to prevent that from happening.)
("PAST", "PRESENT", & "FUTURE")
"Embarrassing History Book"
My least favorite class in school was definitely history class! However, during my 1st year of High School I actually got really good grades in history, but it was only because my history book that year was full of perverted drawings made by one of the kids who had owned my copy of the book in a previous year. (Any time there was a picture of George Washington or some other male historic figure there was a drawing of a big penis between his legs.) And the reason these inappropriate drawings got me to study and do so well in class was because I was terrified that if I got an "F" in history class my parents would insist on helping me study for history class and it would be the most awkward and uncomfortable experience of my life!!!
"Religion's Influence On School Curriculum"
It was actually taught in history class that the world was only 6,000 years old to correspond with the Bible, and any historic events that "allegedly" took place more than 6,000 years ago were either never discussed or were taught to have happened within the last 6,000 years.
Teachers would also sometimes add their own personal religious beliefs and interpretations to their lessons, which resulted in some unbelievable contradictions being taught. (For example, one of my High School science teachers taught that the dinosaurs never even existed, but the following year I had a different science teacher who said that not only did the dinosaurs exist but they existed at the same time as early humans until they went extinct during the great flood.) Obviously these 2 different science teachers couldn't have both been right, and looking back not only was so much of the information that I was taught in science class information that would cause almost everyone would laugh at me and not take me seriously if I claimed to believe it as an adult, but it actually seemed as if the goal of science class was to keep kids "scientifically illiterate". As a matter of fact, on the first day of school one year the science teacher gave us the following warning...
"You will be learning a lot of new and exciting things in science class this year, however, I want to warn you that science is something that should only be learned at school or through the guidance of a good Christian teacher, because the Devil likes to use science as a tool to turn people into Atheists, and almost all of top scientists in the world (Including "Bill Nye The Science Guy") are actually Atheists who's true mission is to deceive people into losing their faith and losing their salvation."
So much of what I learned about in history class was "WAR". I would have to memorize the dates of different wars (which seemed so pointless to me) and because I was trying to get good grades in history class (to avoid the embarrassment of my parents seeing the inappropriate drawings in my history book) I actually read my history book very thoroughly and it was so "patriotic" that any time America went to war with another country America was always portrayed as the "Hero" while the country that we were fighting against was always portrayed as the "Villain". (I couldn't help but think to myself that the school history books in countries that we fought against in the past surely wouldn't portray America as the "Good Guys" and themselves as the "Bad Guys".) Plus during his lectures about past wars the history teacher ("Mr. Shamrock") would often say that "America had God on their side." (Which is essentially saying that God wanted us to win these battles and defeat our enemies.) and at the same time he would always try to scare us by talking about foreign terrorists who wanted to come to American and blow us all up because they believed in a God who wanted them to destroy us.
Due to the fact that I grew up in all white community and racism was so common, any time that black history was brought up in history class it only resulted in horrible hate speech from students, and even "Mr. Shamrock" would try to downplay slavery by telling us that white slave owners were providing their slaves with " jobs" as well as free food, free rent, free clothes, and even free health care if they ever got sick or injured.
But perhaps worst of all was the fact that "Mr. Shamrock" would often tell us that according to the Bible, right before the second coming of Christ there is going to be a great war that will be bigger and more violent than all of the wars in our history books combined, and the Lord will not return until this terrible war takes place. This prophecy he would tell us implied that "World War 3" was inevitable and therefore we should not only prepare for it, but deep down we should actually want it to happen because it would be the ultimate sign that the savior was about to make his triumphant return, and then (and only then) will we finally be able to have "Peace on Earth".
There is an old saying that "Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it." but the way that history was being taught in my school was programming kids to be doomed to continue to have a future full of ignorance and intolerance. (And lots of new "battle dates" that our grandchildren will have to memorize if they want to get an "A" in "World History Class".)
There were no classes at school teaching us to live in the "NOW".
"Preparing Kids For Their Future"
If there is one thing that schools do well it is getting kids used to having to wake up early and go somewhere that they didn't want to be for 8 hours a day on Monday - Friday.
When I started going to school I was suddenly forced to have to wake up at 5:00 AM every morning instead of when I would normally wake up around 8:00 AM or 9:00 AM. and not only did I feel really tired when I had to wake up this early, but I noticed that my ability to solve big math problems in my head without a calculator suffered dramatically due to how slow and sluggish my mind was from losing those extra hours of sleep each night. (Even simple math problems started to feel difficult to me and some days I would feel so "out of it" that I would even have trouble remembering basic things like what year it was.)
When I would arrive at school each morning there would be a long line of kids who looked like zombies waiting to buy a "Coca-Cola" from the vending machine before the first bell rang, and they would all be saying that they couldn't wake up and start their day without their "Coke". This lead me to believe that the church that I was raised in (The "Mormon" church) was on to something when they would say that caffeine was a drug and that you could become a slave to it. It also lead me to believe that for every day that I had to wake up early and go to school I was actually doing more harm to my physical and mental development than whatever good I was getting from having to memorize various things, and I told myself that once I finally turned 18 and was allowed to do it I would quit school.
"The Guidance Councilor"
The "Guidance Councilor" at my school was a man named "Mr. Patterson". He was a very pessimistic man and it seemed as if he wanted to make everyone else join him in his pessimistic outlook on life. When I was 17 he would often tell me and the other boys my age who didn't show any signs of graduating (much less of going to college) that we had better fill out an application for the local steel mill once we turned 18 because it was probably the best job that we would ever be able to find. (He also seemed to have something personal against me and would always criticize me for the unusual school projects that I would come up with and would tell me that I had better "grow up" and stop with all of the "shenanigans".)
One Friday "Mr. Patterson" told us that over the weekend he wanted everyone to write a 3 page paper about one of our "proudest achievements". I wasn't sure what to write about and figured that like normal I would simply not do the assignment, but after church that Sunday me and several of the the other church members got together and baked cookies for our monthly visit to the retirement home down the street, and while we were there I witnessed a miracle...
The old people at the retirement were always happy to see us... (Except for an old man named "Frank" who was in a wheelchair and was almost completely blind and deaf. I felt bad for "Frank" because he would always just be sitting there by himself facing a wall with a big frown on his face. He was non-responsive if anyone tried to talk to him so we learned to just leave him alone and to try not to disturb him.)
Since we were "Mormons" it was customary to sing a church hymn or two right before we left, but because it was December we sang Christmas carols instead, and as we were singing the first Christmas song "Frank" suddenly turned his head to face us. (Which was kind of scary to me at first because there was no telling what he was thinking.) Then during the second song he started smiling, and despite the fact that he had always looked like the most grumpy and unhappy person on Earth it was the most contagious smile that I've ever seen and everyone in the room couldn't help but start smiling as well. Then during the third song "Frank" actually started singing along with us, and everyone started crying tears of joy. When we finished the third song the nurses all ran over and asked "Frank" if he was "OK" and although they were used to him never speaking and only grunting he clearly asked, "Can they stay and sing a while more?"
We of course agreed to stay and sang several more Christmas songs with him. Afterwards "Frank" was talking fluently for the first time that anyone there had ever seen him do so. He told us that the Christmas songs we were singing brought back a lot of good memories of his family, then he started talking about his past, and we stayed and listened as he shared about a 2 hour long version of his life story with us....
My favorite part of his life story was when he said that as a young man he was in the "Air Force" and "Hollywood" was filming a big war movie at the time and needed footage of war planes. Because "Frank" was such a good pilot he was actually offered a role in the movie as a stunt man flying a plane! The director wanted him to fly a plane while several cameramen below filmed him doing fancy turns and flips in the air and shooting fake missiles, and then the director wanted to film him landing the plane. "Frank" said that he performed the air stunts perfectly, but when it was time for him to land the plane he accidentally landed a little too close to the film crew and the wind pressure caused the cameramen, the director, and over $100,000 worth of fancy filming equipment to all get knocked over, and the director was so mad that he cussed out "Frank" and fired him from the movie!
Frank told us that it was the most embarrassing moment of his life because all of his fellow soldiers were there watching it in person, plus all of his family and friends back home were bragging to everyone in town about how he was going to be in major Holly Wood movie. But as he was telling us this story 50 years after it happened he was laughing hysterically, and it made me think that maybe when I get older the most embarrassing things that happened to me in my youth will actually make me laugh instead of cringe. (And maybe instead of waiting 50 years to find it funny I could reduce that time to only 49 years, or 48 years, or maybe even only 47 years.)
When I got home that evening I felt so good about the experience that I couldn't sleep and I decided to stay up that night and actually do my homework assignment about my "proudest achievement" by writing about the experience I just had at the retirement home. I wrote about how me and my church members baked cookies for a retirement home and ended up helping a crippled old man who was close to death suddenly regain a youthful vitality through music from his past and by sharing some of his "proudest achievements" with us. I talked about how it gave me such a unique feeling of �service to others� that I knew I wanted to experience that feeling again in the future, and that for Christmas I intended to use the $10 that I had saved up to buy a copy of the album "Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir" for "Frank". I thought that my essay was very well written and from the heart, and would surely get a good grade, but when the guidance councilor gave us all back our papers I was shocked to see that he had given me an "F" and was even more shocked when I saw that he actually had the nerve to write the following comment on my paper...
"If this is one of your proudest achievements than you might as well just give up on life."
I was shocked and couldn't believe that he would say something that cruel. I couldn't stop thinking about his comment and when I got home that day I started crying about it, and then my thoughts turned to anger and a strong desire for revenge! "I'll show him!" I thought to myself as I fantasized about finding a job that paid a lot of money. (Even if it meant giving up on my dreams of being an artist and doing something that I didn't enjoy for money. All I wanted to do was become super rich just so I could come back to my school someday and show the "Guidance Councilor" how much of a fool he was for not believing in me, and make him feel as bad as he had made me feel!) But then I realized that my thoughts were becoming destructive rather than creative, and it occurred to me that if I wanted to be a successful artists I would probably have to deal with an enormous amount of mean spirited criticism like this in the future from people who have never even met me before, and that I couldn't allow this kind of criticism to do what it was intended to do. (Make me want to give up and stop being creative.) So I accepted the fact that I would no doubt be confronted by lots of "Guidance Councilors" in the future if I wanted to live life my own way rather than the way that we are all expected to live, and I let go of my negative feelings towards "Mr. Patterson".
When I stared going to school I stared as a "freshman" in the 9th grade, and although it was typical for �freshmen� to get picked on in High School, I had a strong reputation of being "the weird kid" who was a virgin and was afraid of his own shadow, so I ended up being picked on far more than the average "freshman". (And the fact that my grades were so bad that I kept failing the 9th grade and therefore kept being a "freshman" didn't help matters.)
I was scared of most of the other boys at school and I was way too intimidated to talk to girls, so I had no friends for my first 3 years of High School and every day at school was one embarrassing and humiliating experience after another. But during my 4th year of school everything changed...
At the beginning of my 4th year of High School the school nurse was so concerned about me that she recommended that I join the "drama club". I was confused and asked her why in the world she would want me to do that and she said that I was so shy and nervous around people that I desperately needed a "crash course" in how to overcome my fear of people now that I was just a couple months away from turning 18. I didn't want to do it but she forced me to join the "drama club" for 6 weeks to see if it would improve my confidence and reduce my social anxiety, and she told me that once the 6 weeks were over I could either quit the class or choose to stay in the class and be in the school play "Peter Pan" later that year.
On the day that I joined the "drama club" I was a nervous wreck! Public speaking was terrifying for me and not only did they want me to talk but they wanted me to "sing" as well. It was awkward enough trying to perform in front of the other "drama club" members, and the idea of being able to perform in front of a live audience felt completely unrealistic to me, so I just wanted the next 6 weeks to hurry up and be over with so I could get out of "drama class".
"THE HAPPY ACCIDENT"
One of the things that I got teased about a lot at school was the fact that I would talk to myself in class (due to being more accustomed to spending time with my "imaginary friends" than with real people) and I was also very easily startled, so kids would get a kick out of sneaking up on me when I was talking to myself and screaming into my ear which would really scare me. This was traumatic for me and I worried about what these kids would do to me once yelling in my ear got old to them. (Luckily it still hadn't gotten old to them even after 3 years of constantly doing it to me.) But then one day during Math class I was talking to myself and the kid who was sitting behind me lightly tapped me on the shoulder to ask if he could borrow my pencil (which I was holding in my hand) and it startled me so bad that I yelled and threw my hands up in the air. As usual everyone started laughing, but as I looked around I noticed that they weren't laughing at me. They were all looking up at the ceiling and laughing so I looked up and saw that my pencil was stuck in the ceiling! (When I threw my hands in the air the pencil flew out of my hand and it hit the ceiling panel sharp tip first and got stuck like a ninja star.) Everyone thought that it was hilarious that my pencil got stuck in the ceiling and even more hilarious that it was just because someone had lightly tapped me on the shoulder.
After the pencil in the ceiling incident I noticed that instead of screaming into my ear kids actually started coming up to me and just lightly tapping me on the shoulder or quietly whispering "Boo" like a ghost in my ear. (Which would still startle me and would still make them laugh.) It then occurred to me that by getting scared over little things I was in a sense "training" my classmates to scare me more gently, so I purposely started acting way more scared than I really was whenever someone would scare me in a more mild manner, and sure enough it quickly became a game of "Let's see just how little it takes to scare this weird kid".
The school nurse became even more concerned about me and said that I had an over sensitivity to touch. For a normal person human touch can feel very enjoyable and a little bit of light touching during a conversation such a hand shake or a pat on the back can add some "spice" to the conversation (like sprinkling a little bit of salt on your food) but for me human touch was so stimulating that it was like putting an entire salt shaker worth of salt on my food, and it felt so intense and overwhelming that it would make my heart beat speed up so fast that I felt like I was going to have a heart attack! She called my parents and gave them some exercises to have me do at home to overcome my phobia of touch. (In one exercise my parents would take an empty bucket and put a random object inside of it and then fill the bucket with uncooked dry rice, then I would have to reach in the bucket of rice with my bare hands and try to feel the mystery object and guess what it was without getting uncomfortable and freaking out.) None of these exercises really seemed to help me though, plus I had no choice but to continue to act scared all the time in order to keep the kids from bullying me, so I couldn't get better now if I wanted to!
Something that would always scare me at school was when we would have an emergency drill such as a "fire drill", a "tornado drill", or a "lockdown drill" because for all I knew it wasn't just another "drill" and we were all about to die! Because kids would always laugh at how scared I would get during these drills I started acting extra scared, and one time the "tornado alarm" went off and it was obviously just a drill because it was a bright and sunny day outside, but I pretended to get really scared about it anyways and I was freaking out so intensely and so loudly that not only did all of the kids in the classroom start laughing about it but I could actually hear the faint sounds of kids in the classrooms across the hall laughing about it as well, and it was at that moment that I first started to kind of enjoy the "power" of the "role" that I was playing and I actually started looking forward to coming to school each day.
During the last day of school before "Christmas break" classes were super easy and a lot of the teachers let us just play games instead of doing usual school work, and while I was in Math class we were playing the game �Scrabble� and someone spelled the word "LEG". I don't know why but for some reason seeing the word "LEG" spelled out on the board freaked me out and gave me an intensely uncomfortable feeling like I had a thousand insects crawling on my body, so I started screaming and ran and hid in the corner until someone removed the word!
I wasn't "acting" when I saw the word "LEG" and had a panic attack, but while I was panicking I remember that deep down I also felt a feeling of bliss about the fact that I was giving everyone in the room a really unusual experience that would help to keep me on their minds during the next 2 weeks that they wouldn't be seeing me because of "Christmas break".
The fact that the principle, the teachers, the school nurse, and even the lunch lady were all convinced that I had something wrong with me, and the fact that they also believed that I was taking medication that could cause a long list of side effects made my acting seem all the more convincing, and to make it ever more convincing I started having "rehearsals" in front of my bedroom mirror where I would exaggerate my social awkwardness, and I would also rehearse for "drama class" at home by coming up with funny and creative ways of messing up my lines so that everyone in �drama class� would tell the rest of the kids in school that I was the worst actor ever and nobody would ever suspect that I was just acting. And when my 6 weeks of "drama class" were over I told the school nurse that I would like to remain in the class, and although I had just turned 18 and could now quit school any time I wanted to I decided to go ahead and stick around a while longer and wait for the right opportunity to have my big "finale".
Although the kids at school were starting to take a bit of a liking to me and were being a lot less mean to me when they tried to scare me, my History teacher ("Mr. Shamrock") really got a kick out of scaring me in an aggressive manner. One time I fell asleep in his class so he went across the hall to the music room and got 2 big metal symbols and walked up to me while I was sleeping and slammed them together which made me jump up out of my seat and scream in horror. Everyone laughed about it and he sarcastically asked me, "Did that scare you?" and I nervously replied, "That would have scarred the hiccups out of David Hasselhof!" Then everyone in the room suddenly got quite and looked at each other all confused and then started nervously laughing unsure what to think about what I had just said. (I have to confess that although I really did get scared when he clashed the metal symbols together it only scared me for a few seconds and once I was aware of what was going on I was no longer scared and was only pretending to still be scared to keep the laughter going and to work on my improvisational skills.... And the bit I said about "David Hasselhof" was just me inserting my own random sense of humor into the act. It was a mutual performance. "Mr. Shamrock" had creative control over the beginning of the act but I had creative control over how it ended, and I would come to life in these performances.)
When I was alone in my room at home I would often do "puppet shows" (inspired by watching "Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood") where I would make puppets that looked like my school teachers and would imitate their voices. I felt that the other kids at school might really enjoy my puppet shows but I was still too nervous to even say "Hello" to anyone yet and I figured that they would just make fun of me for still playing with dolls even though I had just turned 18, so I decided to keep it to myself...
My Spanish teacher ("Mr. Childs") was a pervert! There were 3 really pretty girls in my Spanish class ("Laura", "Sarah", and "Jennifer") and "Mr. Childs" conveniently had all 3 of them sitting in the front row right in front of his desk. He would always act really flirtatious around them even though they were underage and he was old enough to be their grandpa. Plus whenever he would walk around the room to pass out tests or collect homework assignments I noticed that when he would walk past the desks of "Laura", "Sarah", and "Jennifer" he would get so close to their desks that his "you know what" would rub up against the edge of their desks, and I'm guessing that he was doing it on purpose to try to send subliminal messages to them that he was "well endowed". Everyone knew that he was a pervert, but it was during a time when sexual harassment wasn't taken anywhere near as seriously as it is today, so nobody ever called him out on it and he continued to act this way year after year without ever getting in trouble for it.
"Mr. Childs" also had a very bad temper (towards the boys in class) and would yell a lot. (Something interesting that I noticed was that whenever he would get mad and yell he would always shout the word, "HEY" but the way he would pronounce it made it sound like he was just shouting the letter "A" for no reason.) And one day "Mr. Childs" was really mad at a boy in class named "Jeremy Coleman" (the school bully that I feared the most) because he was talking in class, and after yelling at him for several minutes (and displaying his macho alpha male side for the girls) he said that he had to go to the office to make some copies and that while he was gone we were to all shut up and work on our Spanish.
As usual about 10 seconds after he left the room everyone started talking to each other (and not in "Spanish") and about a minute later I stood up and nervously walked up to the trashcan at the front of the room to throw something away. When I got to the trashcan I turned and looked back at the other kids and saw that everyone was engaged in conversation and not paying me any attention so I quietly tip-toed to the door and stepped out into the hallway.
My heart was pounding out of control! I looked around to make sure that "Mr. Childs" and no other teachers were around. The hallway was completely empty and everyone in Spanish class was talking and unaware of my absence. "It's now or never." I thought to myself. I then took a deep breath and while standing outside of the door and out of view from the students I shouted the letter "A" in "Mr. Child's" voice as loud as I could and the class immediately got silent. I then stepped back in the room and everyone was looking down at their books pretending to be busy studying and didn't see me, so I continued to yell at them in "Mr. Child's" voice for talking when they were told not to, and they kept thinking that I was "Mr. Childs" until one by one everyone started to look up and realize that it was actually me and after several moments of total disbelief everyone started laughing about it and then they actually started cheering and clapping their hands in approval.
As I stood in front of a loving and accepting audience for the first time I became overwhelmed with the confidence that I had always lacked. I looked at the bully "Jeremy Coleman" and although I had always been terrified of him I started yelling at him for talking in class (repeating word-for-word what "Mr. Childs" had said when he had yelled at him 5 minutes earlier) and because I was yelling at him in "Mr. Childs" voice instead of my real voice he actually laughed and wanted me to keep yelling at him rather than getting mad and wanting to give me a black eye for it. And despite the fact that I had always been painfully shy around girls as soon as I finished yelling at "Jeremy" I turned to "Laura", "Sarah", and "Jennifer", and winked at them. (Which resulted in a lot more laughter, but also a lot of the audience members putting their hands over their mouths and opening their eyes really wide because they couldn't believe that I was "going there" and bringing up the fact that he obviously had a thing for them.) I then decided to keep "going there" and to try some physical comedy, so I walked over to "Mr. Child's" desk and grabbed a stack of papers (which was our homework that he was planning on passing out before class ended) and I started passing them out to everyone and when I walked up to where "Laura", "Sarah", and "Jennifer" were sitting I purposely got so close to their desks that I banged my crotch on the edge of their desks. (Making it look as if I was trying to send them a subliminal message that I was "well endowed" but it backfired.) I threw the papers in the air and grabbed my crotch in agony, I then took a few steps backwards and bumped into "Mr. Childs" desk and accidentally knocked over his coffee mug, causing it to spill all over his desk. (I knew full well that what I was doing could get me in serious trouble, but it didn't matter. I was so in the "NOW" and was enjoying the reaction that I was getting so much that I was willing to do ANYTHING in the moment to keep the audience happy!)
But then all of a sudden "Mr. Childs" (who was on his way back to the classroom and could hear the laughter from all the way down the hall) yelled "A!!!" I then snapped out of the present moment and immediately became my insecure self once again paranoid about the future. I went into panic mode and frantically grabbed some papers out of the trash can to try to mop up the spilled coffee before he could get to the door, but it was too late, he walked in the room and saw me at his desk trying to clean up the spilled coffee and yelled, "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?" I froze with fear and was completely unable to speak or move, and then a girl named "Mindy" (who felt that I as a comedian had crossed the line and was being offensive by joking about sexual harrassment) stood up and said, "He was making fun of the way you talk "Mr. Childs" and then he went up to your desk and threw the papers in the air and knocked over your coffee mug!" "Mr. Child's" was so mad that he came at me looking like a man possessed and I was so scared that I dropped to the floor and crawled under his desk. He then reached under the desk, grabbed me by my shirt, and pulled me back up to my feet with such force that my neck cracked in 4 or 5 places that it never had before, and then he pushed me towards the door and shouted, "GO TO THE OFFICE!!!"
As I walked to the office I was really scared that I might get :paddled", (Which was still legal back then.) especially since I was so thin and didn't have as much "padding" on my butt as most of the kids that I went to school with. I would always hear crazy stories about other kids getting paddled... Kids would claim that the teacher hit them so hard that the paddle broke, or that the teacher would humiliate them by making them take off their pants (and sometimes even their underwear) for the paddling, and every once in a while a teacher would paddle a kid in the hallway while classes were going on just so everyone would hear the sound of a kid getting paddled and know that if they misbehaved they could be next. (Plus one time "Mr. Child's" took "Jeremy Coleman" to the office to paddle him and when they returned to class "Jeremy" had a redness around his eyes and a bit of a sniffle when he breathed that made it obvious that he had cried while getting paddled, so I knew that if getting paddled would make the toughest kid in school cry I was in really deep trouble!)
I sat in the office for several minutes waiting for "Mr. Childs". (Who was still in his classroom getting more details from "Mindy" about the impression that I was doing of him.) I didn't mean to offend anyone, but for some reason "Mindy" had gotten so offended that she was actually more upset at me than she was at "Mr. Childs" even though he was actually doing the inappropriate things that I was merely making fun of him for.
Then "Mr. Child's" finally entered the office and pointed his finger at me yelling, "For what you did I'm going to paddle you..........................
AND 30 TIMES!!!"
According to the rules the principle had to be there to witness any paddlings performed by a teacher, so he got the principle and the 3 of us went into a small room. The principle stood against a wall with his arms crossed while "Mr. Child's" went over to a filing cabinet and pulled out a big wooden paddle and told me to get in a squatting position and to put my hands on my knees. He then got behind me and started to pace back and forth to build up the suspense that I was feeling. My heart was pounding out of control and the roll that I ate at lunch felt like it was now "rolling" around in circles in my stomach. And as I waited for the first hit I suddenly remembered the movie "The Karate Kid" and the lesson that if you are being attacked it is best to defend yourself not by hitting back but by using the attacker's own force against them...
He then hit me with the paddle and like a shotgun going off there was a really loud "BANG" and the force was so strong that it caused me to lunge forward towards the filing cabinet and I purposely ran into it head first and then fell over and pretended to be knocked unconscious to get out of the other 29 hits. "Mr. Childs" dropped his paddle and him and the principle immediately ran over to me. They both bent down and tried to pick me up but I started freaking out so badly over the fact that they were putting their hands of me that the principle said, "Oh my God he's having a seizure!" (Which was one of the side effects of the ADD medication that he was responsible for getting so many kids like me to start taking.) so I started shaking as much as I could on purpose and the principle ran out of the room to get the nurse.
After what felt like a solid minute (but was probably closer to 10 seconds) I felt so fatigued that I could no longer keep up the shaking, so I stopped, then I opened my eyes and saw "Mr. Childs" standing over me looking really scared and asking me if I was OK. I pretended to be dazed and confused and asked him, "Where am I?" He told me that I was in the principle's office and that he paddled me and I had a seizure. I then continued to act dazed and confused and asked him, "You're not going to put Bill Clinton in a trash can are you?" (At that point he looked even more dazed and confused than me, and I could tell that he was nervous that I might have gotten brain damage and that he might get in trouble over it.) So I then told him that I was feeling really dizzy and asked him if I could call my parents, and he got so scared that he reached back into his pocket, pulled out his wallet, and handed me a $10 bill. (Which was a lot of money for me back then!) He told me that I could keep the $10 if I agreed not to tell anyone that he paddled me or that I had a seizure and I agreed. I felt kind of guilty about taking his money, but if he found out that I had hit my head on purpose and faked a seizure there's no telling what he would have done to me. (Plus I felt that I had put on a very good acting performance when I was imitating him earlier and that I deserved to be paid for it!)
Word about the incident of me making fun of "Mr. Childs" for being a pervert got around school quick and a lot of kids (especially the girls) started coming up to me and thanking me for getting everyone at school to talk about it. (I noticed that after the incident "Mr. Childs" started to stand back at least a foot instead of getting "up close and personal" whenever he would walk past the desks of pretty girls.) The kids also really appreciated the way that I could make my voice sound just like "Mr. Childs" voice and they started coming up and asking me to imitate him, and then they started asking me to imitate the voices of other teachers and even the voices of other students when they weren't around, and everyone couldn't believe who flexible of a voice I had from so many years of imaginary friendships and puppeteering. (Doing impressions for people was a lot of fun for me, although I have to admit that I never knew what to do or where to hide myself whenever someone would come up to me and says, "So I hear that you do an impression of me.")
I even brought the "puppets" that I made of the teachers to school one day to show the kids and they absolutely loved them. (And nobody made fun of me for still playing with dolls.) When teachers would find out that I was imitating them and even making puppets of them they would often get really upset about it, but the way I saw it, I would rather have the acceptance of the students than of the teachers, and I knew that there was no way that the principle would dare to let anyone paddle me again after what had happened the last time someone tried to do it.
The kids at school were suddenly acting really nice to me, which was a wonderful and welcome change. I had a very loud and powerful laugh and was very easily amused, but because I had recently been paddled my butt was still really sore and it would hurt if I burst out laughing. So whenever someone would say or do something to make me laugh I would reach around and grab my butt cheeks as I laughed. After a while everyone started to notice this and ask me, "Why do you grab your butt when you laugh???" and because I had promised "Mr. Child's" that I wouldn't tell anyone about the fact that he paddled me I would just shrug my shoulders and say that it was a natural reflex for me. Everyone thought it was really strange and funny that I grabbed my butt whenever I laughed so once the soreness wore off I continued to do it, and over time it grew on me to the point where now it really is a natural reflex for me to grab my butt whenever I laugh.
As kids started to be a lot nicer to me they would still tease me (especially about my diet) but it was a different kind of teasing and more of a curious inquiring about what I was doing and why. Sometimes a kid would even come up to me in private and say, "I've been eating more fruit because of you." or "You inspired me to drink more water." and my favorite was when the most overweight kid in gym class "Josh" told me that he always saw me drinking orange juice at lunch and he decided to try it since I was so thin, and he was now drinking an orange juice every day at lunch instead of a "Coke".
That year I was voted "The Most Popular Kid" at my school in the year book, but I was also voted "The Shiest Kid" that year as well. (So shy that I was "not pictured" for either of these awards.) Who was I??? I started school as 1 person but then I became 2 totally different people (1 was shy and 1 loved attention) and once I started doing impressions I became everyone.
"THE FEAR OF FAILURE"
I failed the 9th grade not once, not twice, but three times and was now in my 4th year in a row of 9th grade. Of course a lot of kids would laugh about the fact that I had failed 9th grade 3 times in a row and was almost certainly going to fail a 4th time as well, but ironically as easily embarrassed as I was over little things I actually seemed to be the only one who wasn't embarrassed about failing.
When other kids would fail a grade they would be in complete denial about it and say things like, "I didn't "fail", I just got "held back" a year." and if you asked them why they got "held back" a year they would usually say something like, "Because my Math teacher hated me!" (Which is silly, because think about it, if you were a teacher and you hated one of your students why would you want to keep them around for an extra year if you didn't have to?)
During my time in school I learned to be OK with failing, (even multiple times) and to accept failure rather than blaming it on others. (I also learned that when you are the "Class Clown" there is really no such thing as �failure�, because if I would trip and fall in front of everyone or misspell my own name on a test paper it didn't hurt my reputation as the "Class Clown", it helped it!)
Because my parents were "Mormons" and were really strict about what kinds of movies I could watch we owned lots of movies that were produced by the "Mormon" church with all "Mormon" casts and I fell in love with these movies because the acting in them was so much worse than in "Hollywood" movies and these movies inspired me to want to be the best worst actor in the world.
I ended up performing in the school play "Peter Pan" that year and because of the fact that for the past few years the school play had generated really poor ticket sales, combined with the fact that I had been voted the most popular kid in school, the drama teacher decided to let me have the role of "Captain Hook" instead of giving me a more minor role. I actually showed up at the play that night hoping that I would fail so badly that when the play was over the audience wouldn't go home saying, "That was a good play" or "That was a bad play" but would instead just be asking, "What was wrong with that boy who played "Captain Hook"???"
I may have "appeared" to be a terrible actor that night who didn't spend enough time rehearsing for the play, but the truth was that I had spent more time rehearsing for it than anyone else. I spent countless hours alone in my room perfecting my imperfections (literally) to the point where imperfections were so believable that I was able to do the one thing that all great actors wish to accomplish which is to make the audience believe! (I may not have been able to convince the audience that "Captain Hook" was real, but I was able to convince them that the person doing a really bad job of playing "Captain Hook" was real!) The play happened long before the days of internet and as far as I know there is no actual recording of the play, but if there is a copy of it somewhere my performance will probably end up on "YouTube" someday and it will probably have the words "Epic Fail" in the title, and if that ever happens I will consider it a greatest success!
"THE FINAL TEST"
I never used the bathroom at school (not even once) due to the fact that I had "bladder shyness" and I worried that other people would hear the sound of me peeing in the toilet, so I had to "hold it" all day at school, and literally for the entire 10 hours from the time I left my house for school at 5:30 A.M. until I got back home at 3:30 P.M. I didn't use the bathroom, and because my last class of the day was History class with "Mr. Shamrock� combined with the fact that he really liked to scare me there were many incidents where I almost peed my pants in his class. "Mr. Shamrock" was getting more and more "physical" with the pranks that he would play on me and it was getting to the point where it felt "abusive" to me. I didn't have to "act" scared around him and I would frequently have nightmares about running into him somewhere alone.
One day it was "Hippie Day" at school (which was a day when kids were allowed to show up at school dressed up as Hippies wearing things like sunglasses, tie dye t-shirts, long wigs, peace symbol necklaces, etc.) There were other �theme days� at school as well such as "Hawaiian Shirt Day", "Twins Day", and "Sports Jersey" day, but I never dressed up for any of these days or saw the point in them. Some kids however really got into these days and when I was in "Mr. Shamrock's" history class on �Hippie Day� he got up in the middle of class and told us that he had to leave the room and would be back shortly.
When he left the room he went to the teacher's lounge and put on a gorilla costume with the intentions of really scaring me, and several of the other teachers were all going to help him with the prank just so they could be there to see my reaction in person. When he came back to the classroom he hid outside the door and waited as all of the other teachers entered the room with scared expressions on their face and informed us that a big truck that was transporting gorillas to the zoo crashed near the school and the gorillas escaped and were spotted on school property.
The teachers told us that this was real and NOT a drill, and that we were on "lockdown" and had to stay in the room until the gorillas had been captured. (Even if it meant staying over night.) Although I was extremely gullible back then even I found this a bit hard to believe at first, but then I remembered that there was a boy at my school named "Sam" who got kicked out of school for 6 months because he pulled the "Fire Alarm" when there wasn't a fire so I knew that faking an emergency drill was against the rules, and I also knew from watching "National Geographic" on PBS that a gorilla was strong enough to rip a person's arms and legs off, so I started to get really nervous.
All the other kids were in on the joke and were doing a really good job of acting scared and some of them even started lifting their desks and carrying them to the the door to block it, but before they could do it the door suddenly burst open and "Mr. Shamrock" came charging into the room straight at me wearing the gorilla costume and growling madly! He then grabbed me out of my seat in a bear hug and started shaking me wildly, and I was so scared and needed to pee so badly that I completely lost control of my kidneys as they were being squeezed by his tight grip as he thrashed my body back and forth, and I peed my pants.
All of the kids started to laugh and say, "Oh my God, he peed his pants!" then "Mr. Shamrock" set me down, took his mask off to get a better look, and literally fell over laughing about it. All of the kids were laughing at me and half of the teachers were laughing while the other half looked a bit nervous about the fact that this highly illegal prank that they were involved in had clearly gone too far.
I had completely forgotten how uncomfortable it was to have everyone laughing at me when I wasn't in control of the situation. I felt so embarrassed that I started to tear up and it seemed that there was nothing I could do. (Due to my overwhelming bladder shyness there was no way that I could ever show my face in school again after peeing my pants, nor could I deal with the embarrassment of my parents having to come to school with a clean pair of pants, so I was stuck in an embarrassing situation with seemingly no way to redeem myself.)
I then became overwhelmed with anger as I looked at "Mr. Shamrock" laughing at me! I was so mad at him and was so tired of his harassment that I looked down at my History book and felt an almost uncontrollable urge to throw it at him. I then grabbed the book and went to throw it at him and everyone in the room screamed, but luckily at the last split second I decided to turn slightly to the right and instead throw the book across the classroom towards the trashcan and I made a perfect shot! (Although the force that I threw the book caused the trashcan to flip over and spill onto the floor.) I then shouted, "I quit!" and started to head for the door. Then "Mr. Shamrock" (who was scared that he could end up getting in a lot of trouble over what had happened) tried to stop me by running over to me and saying, "I'm sorry." and I snapped and shouted back at him, "Well you should be sorry... And you should be fired over this!!! How could you do something like this to me??? You should know better!!!" I then stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind me.
I felt ashamed of myself for getting so offended over a "joke" and for giving into hate and letting myself get destructive rather than finding a creative way to make my last appearance at school one that I was happy with. And just as I was about to walk away from the door and away from school forever I looked across the hall and saw a boy dressed as a hippies walking into the bathroom and an idea suddenly came to me so I quickly turned back around and re-opened the door. I then walked back into the class room and walked right up to "Mr. Shamrock" looking him eye-to-eye with a serious look on my face. Everyone was watching in complete silence. You could hear a pin drop as everyone was waiting to see what in the world I was going to say or do. I was clenching my fists, breathing heavy, and had tears rolling down my cheeks, and then after several seconds of suspenseful silence I finally opened my mouth and in the most offended sounding voice that I could make I yelled...
"And on Hippie Day!"
All the kids then turned to each other with confused grins on the faces and started giggling because I was acting as if the fact that it was "Hippie Day" somehow made the practical joke that "Mr. Shamrock's" played on me so much more offensive and unforgivable to me. I kept staring at "Mr. Shamrock" with a serious look on my face and kept pretending to be offended, but the sounds of confused giggling throughout the class room was making it very difficult for me to keep doing it. I then realized that it's true that you can't laugh and be angry at the same time. As I was struggling internally to keep a straight face all of the anger that I was feeling towards "Mr. Shamrock" completely melted away and without saying it I silently forgave him. (And even though I was so fearful of "human touch" I actually kind of wanted to give him a hug because it wasn't until that moment when I actually looked him in the eyes that I realized just how much he looked like me.) Then when I felt as though I could only keep a straight face for a few more seconds I quickly turned away and once again stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind me.
I then walked away from the door and down the hall and as I did I heard the classroom burst out into the confused laughter that I was known for inspiring, and with nobody else around I broke character and started laughing as well.
I did it! I was able to make my final performance at school my favorite one of all. I had a very long walk home (it was a long bus ride and would probably take a whole day to walk that far) but I was so excited about the fact that I had just quit school that I ended up running almost the whole way home and I got home before dark.
Public schooling didn't break my inner child. Just like "Luke Skywalker" in "Return Of The Jedi" I was tempted by the dark side and I almost turned to evil during my final test, but in the end I overcame it. I didn't hate "Mr. Shamrock", the "Guidance Councilor", the "Principle", or any of the other teachers or students who were ever mean to me, and I got through my forced years of public schooling with my imagination, empathy, and love for learning still intact. And because I didn't pay very much attention to what was actually being taught at school I had very little to "unlearn", and all of the subjects that I failed so miserably at in at in school such as "Health", "Phys-Ed", "Science", "History", "Math", "Reading", "Writing", and "Art" were all subjects that I would go on to do very well in at life!