Part 2: Where’s the Library?

The hyperbolical account of my private-school teaching job: Part 2

One afternoon, before my optimism had waned and long after good sense had taken its leave, I asked permission to take my students to the local library where we could gather and conduct research for our history reports, and was met with the response that surely they would only use the opportunity to misbehave. In spite of the many, many similar statements I had overheard or received in my time here, I was dubmfounded. What kind of a response does one give to such a presumption? I was then asked: Haven’t they already been to the library? As though one visit in a child’s educational lifetime was sufficient. Her next query was: What could they need at the library that they couldn’t find online?

No. Library trip permission denied. Better to let them use the Internet. I had no words, but if I had, they would have been of the rational variety and therefore foreign to my principal. How could a trip to the library be a waste of time? And when is preference for the Internet over real, bound books ever really given? I thought I was in the Twilight Zone and I left the principal’s office with a minor migraine brought on by illogical and insupportable educational beliefs.

The students had, however, not long before this denied request, been encouraged to attend the field trip to Microsoft in Redmond. It was a field trip that had been discussed with the Math and Science teachers but that had (strangely enough) not reached the ears or email inboxes of the English/History and Logic teachers–that is, my husband and myself.  It seems we were somehow responsible for this oversight, and instead of an apology for the lack in communication were told we needed to be more flexible. It was, after all, Microsoft. One must show due respect. Even students who had no intention whatever of working there were bundled into the van and taken away. I was left subbing for the science teacher and my husband had wasted an afternoon prepping for a class he did not need to teach.

It was clear that reading, language, literature, or appreciation for any of these subjecs had not really the top priority and were, furthermore, culturally passé. STEM was the big thing now, and Engineering and Math were about to break out and make winners of us all. Art, though a cornerstone of classical learning, was relegated to an elective for the junior high or high school and was given the same credence, or even less credence than the before-school coding class. The sciences, including STEM, were the sexy subjects, and therefore got more air time and attention. Literature, on the other hand, held a certain degree of danger, possessed too much free thought, perhaps, to be given its due and given its head.

My subjects: writing, reading, discussion, were all crammed into one 50-minute period a day which was often borne into by delayed lunches, student council, or a variety of ‘pull-out’ reasons. Math, on the other hand, was never cancelled, even on half-days and was given a full hour to show it our allegiance. Anyone who was late to math had to have a good reason; anyone late to English (or History) was probably helping change a lightbulb and was summarily excused.


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