I lost interest in school after eighth grade.
After ten hour days in private elementary school, my Dad went bankrupt, and I was forced to attend Midwood High School, a public school, with approximately 6000 students, in Brooklyn, New York.
I was a real goody two shoes back then, and I got a “job” working for Dean Kussein (cue‘–sin), getting juvenile delinquents out of class, and escorting them to his office. One of these misfits, Kenny, always forced me to stop in the bathroom so he could smoke a cigarette, “for my nerves, man.” Kenny fascinated me because of my cloistered background, where nobody ever got in trouble.
Kenny was called into the Dean’s office on an almost–daily basis, i.e., whenever he had the temerity to show up in school. Near the end of my first term, I said, “Kenny, I bring you here everyday, how come you never seem to get into trouble?” He replied, “You can do anything you want here, man (his favorite word). Come on man, I’ll show you what to do.”
Our Own Rules
I was exquisitely bored, and Kenny’s refractory, counterculture lifestyle was quite alluring. So I became an “Avenue K Boy” and hung out with him, and his perverted 29 yo female friend L., in her “crash pad.” Kenny’s most famous moment quote was after meeting L., when he exclaimed, “I came five times!” ad infinitum, to any and all passers–by. FYI, your intrepid narrator, wisely avoided entering her garden of unearthly delights.
During the following year, tenth grade, AKBs would arrive at 07:30, wait for the “late bell” to ring, get a late pass, and walk out the side door. This way we were absent from home room, so we didn’t have to attend classes, but we were also on the “late sheet.” The late sheet was not distributed until the afternoon, so we weren’t “cutting,” but we could miss weeks of school at a time, without ever needing an excuse for being absent!
Kenny really knew his stuff! He had everyone bulldozed! “Joe The Cop” used to patrol the front of Midwood High School, which occupied an entire square block, until Kenny wanted to smoke a joint. Then he would say, “Joe, don’t you think it’s time you checked out the back of the school for awhile? We’ll watch the front for you!” Joe would say, “Good idea Kenny, come get me if you decide to take a walk.”
One day I said, “Kenny, why don’t we go to the back of the school?” He looked at me with utter shock, and exclaimed, “Why would we want to do that man? Everything’s happening in the front!” Impeccable logic!
Spirit of ‘69
Midwood is located across the street from Brooklyn College, and BC was a favorite haunt of the Yippies. Abbie Hoffman, my favorite motivational speaker of all time, came up with the idea of student strikes later that year. Kenny met with Abbie, and came up with the idea of “student solidarity.” So, as soon as the weather got warm, MHS joined BC, and we all went on strike for the rest of the semester.
Woodstock (oh yeah!) was held that summer, I hitchhiked there with my my late friend, Henry. Woodstock really annoyed the reactionary crowd, and the school decided to get tough the following year.
As far as the “establishment” was concerned, I think that the most annoying part of Woodstock, was that there was no violence. People hurt themselves, by overdosing, but nobody hurt anyone else.
Phys Ed Fizzles
HS attendance was no longer compulsory, except for gym, and students with over five unexcused absences from gym were given a “39” in all their subjects, and forced to repeat the year. Returning Seniors were known as “Super Seniors.”
Two extremely resourceful Seniors, who had already been accepted to college, saw no reason to attend school at all, and figured out how to beat the new system.
These fellows, whose names I have forgotten, came to school one night, when the only occupant was P., the night watchman and maintenance man. They brought P. a quart of whiskey, and managed to get him to drink the whole thing, until he passed out. Then they took all the attendance records from the first floor, brought them down to the gym and set them on fire. After the gym was on fire, the boys woke P. up, and carried him outside, and called the fire department.
By the time the FD extinguished the fire, the gym was useless, and all the attendance records were destroyed! No gym, plus no attendance records, equaled no school for the rest of that term!
This forced the geniuses in charge to change the rules again: students were now only required to attend midterms and finals! Two days of school a year was something almost everyone could handle, and that ended eleventh grade.
“The Man” Makes Me Sweat
In NYC, students applied to college during the eleventh grade, and City University of NY (CUNY) had an open admissions policy, i.e., all NYS HS students were guaranteed a free college education (when I attended Kingsborough Community College tuition, was $46 per term). With proper planning, a student’s only requirement was to complete English seven and eight during his/her senior year.
There were new geniuses in charge that year, who came up with a new plan: Attendance was still midterm/final, there was no gym, because it was considered unsafe, and would not be rebuilt for another year, so these brilliant backstabbers figured out a way to get even: students were no longer allowed to take both Englishes in one term. My first term was comprised of English, Music Theory (taught by a friend’s Dad who gave everyone an A), and Major Art, taught by a male pedophile who dated female students and played Donovan records during class.
But three classes meant staying in school from 07:30 – 10:45, too much time for this lackadaisical learner, so I somehow managed to get a 07:30 English class, and was allowed to leave after home room at about 08:30.
I only had to attend one class, for two days, the entire term.
My English teacher knew what to expect, on the first day she distributed a syllabus, which informed us to take the two exams, and write a paper on Macbeth. I aced the first exam, but completely forgot about the second, until an AKB, who was trying to avoid the draft, realized that he was a half hour late for his final. About forty students surrounded this fellow at the public telephone across the street from the school, so nobody could see who was on the phone (DNA was not an issue yet!), and he called in a bomb threat, causing the school to empty and the test to be scrubbed.
Then panic set in when I realized that my test had been the day before, and I had also neglected to read Macbeth. I rushed into school the following morning, found my wonderful teacher, who is still a favorite on classmates.com. She gave me another day to write a paper on Macbeth, and allowed me to take the exam in her office. I passed the test and finished HS! Hurray!
The saddest part of MHS was that our alumni led the world in drug overdoses. Kenny never graduated, got into heroin, overdosed the following year, and was discovered by D., who is now addicted to opium. G., my best friend from MHS, also slid down a slippery slope of excess, and succumbed to a barbiturate dose a few years later.
I returned to Midwood once, because I had applied for a NYS job, and needed a copy of my HS diploma. The first change I saw, after entering went through the front door, was a metal detector. I considered this an affront to my dignity, walked around it, and proceeded to the office. Two uniformed officers, were there, but they were busy searching someone’s backpack, and I made it down the hall, to the door of the office, before they caught up with me, and demanded that I empty my pockets. I ignored them, and entered the office. One of them pushed his way in front of me, and told me that I was going to be in serious trouble, if I did not empty my pockets immediately. I looked at their uniforms, and they were not “real” policemen, so I figured that I couldn’t get in that much trouble, so I said, “No. I am going to get a copy of my diploma, and then I am going to leave the building. I am not going to cause any trouble, but if you don’t believe me, you are welcome to wait with me, until I get my diploma, and watch me leave the building.” They waited, I got my diploma, and they followed me out of the building. I don’t know how many of these officers were in the school, but two other uniformed people had taken their place by the metal detector, and were making some other student empty their backpack when I left.
I don’t understand why NYC has these people there to begin with. The “Spirit of the Sixties” is gone, but there should still be some camaraderie among students.
If this had happened when I went to school, all of the students would have joined forces, refused to enter the metal detector, and the current powers–that–be would have had no choice but to remove them.
There was a recent legal case, which went all the way to the Supreme Court, about a HS school student, who was suspended from school, because he stood across the street from the school, with a Bong Hits for Jesus banner. I think that if this had happened when I was in school, every student would have come to school with an identical banner, and the whole affair would have ended.
I don’t know if today’s students are spineless, or just plain ignorant, for allowing their freedoms to be curtailed. But every school needs at least one fellow like Kenny, to stand up for their rights, and for the rights of students, and indeed Americans, throughout our land.