Monday, July 18, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 37: Dumbing down of high school kids aggravates me in a big Salt Lake High School

I began to detect a systematic dumbing down of high school kids at West which aggravated me because I had gone to Salt Lake in the hopes of going to a really good high school.  I did not know if it was because West Hi was where minorities went or if it was a Utah thing.  Whatever blacks had been intrepid enough to move to Salt Lake where Mormon doctrine kept them from holding the priesthood lived mostly in the South High school district.  But I suspected that East High School where the majority of the wealthy citizens lived would not be a whole lot better.
As I was tediously copying animal body parts out of a book in biology, I wondered if I ought to rebel, but the thought of missing college kept me from becoming a protester in high school before I had done everything the conventional way I could do without getting too disgusted. Nearly all my classes were so easy, they were downright boring.
The history teacher would simply write parts of the next chapter on the black board, which we would copy and study for our tests.  We could even look at our notes if we wanted to.  I heard the history teacher was a former coach so he was not expected to be a good teacher, having failed at coaching but still needing a job to support his family.  The only good teacher I had was in my English college prep class.  She drilled us in grammar all year, but she did not allow us to write anything, so I got no chance to express my creative urges or my ability to think in any class in high school.
I wrote synopses of short stories for my junior English teacher, who seemed aggravated to think she had to read more of mine than she expected. She had not put a limit on how many short story reports we could do, but she acted as though she was going to have to in order to prevent an overflow from a student like I was.
I was even getting aggravated with Miss Nelson, my speech and drama teacher, who was beginning to act very controlling when it came to picking out pieces to take to the meets around the state.  She practically assigned a piece to me to memorize that I thought had little merit about a mean old man. I was asked to do that piece everywhere, and I always felt uncomfortable doing it as though I were demeaning myself.
She practically wrote my speech for me after she urged me to try out for a regional speech competition. I entered it because I thought I would have the chance to express a few of my own thoughts on the subject.  Miss Nelson was so in the habit of thinking for her students that she ignored my cool reactions to such 'help' from her, but the time I really got angry at her was when I was slated to give a speech to the whole high school as the salutatorian.  I had barely missed being valedictorian, but I thought the girl whose grades proved to be higher than mine deserved to win, since her A's were in chemistry and math.  I don't know if anyone helpfully wrote her speech for her, but I was completely disillusioned when Miss Nelson, as my adviser, told me not to worry about the content as she would be writing the speech for me!
Was she really that afraid to give one of her top students the opportunity to express her own thoughts?
It looked like it.  She wasn't going to be able to accompany me everywhere the rest of my life writing my speeches for me, if I ever got another chance to give one!
I didn't think this was a very good sign.  It looked as though I was going to have a tougher time than I thought surfacing any of my own conclusions let alone telling anyone what had happened to me at the hands of predators.  I had found it impossible to tell anyone up to now, and these dark secrets were eating away at the very fabric of my being. They were going to have to be told some day before they gave me such a soul sickness I could not be happy.
But when and where?  At the University?  Now that I had finished high school while still being completely suppressed, I would have to find a way to talk about the harsh realities of life in probably the last school I would ever attend, the University of Utah.  I hoped that the English professors there appreciated great literature enough to realize that the writers were very often the ones who called attention to what ordinary society always tended to suppress.  I was still reading a great many books, many of them written by the masters. I wasn't going to miss any writer's work that illuminated some dark heavy problem to the rest of the world.
That would be my mission as a writer I thought.  But in order to get my stories out there I would have to find people willing to publish difficult material.  I wondered if I would find anyone willing in Utah to take those risks. In high school I had encountered more men willing to take advantage of the young if they could.  I was not lacking in predators to write about.

Every summer when I came home I studied my dad's cowboy culture as an example of men who took advantage of ignorant women and made them feel they did not deserve honesty.  I noted that my dad had hired another cowboy to help him on the new ranch property.  The new man was married to a strange little woman who I doubted ever questioned anything he did, so however he and my father acted, her husband would never be challenged by his wife.
At least the new man left us daughters strictly alone.  He always tried to act as distant with me as possible.  But I noted that when a gay photographer became great friends with my dad, this hired man always went along with my dad and him to help cook and show him the sights on their week long treks into the canyon country.  The photographer took photos of my dad and the hired man looking especially happy.  I asked Mother if she was suspicious of what my dad and the photographer might be doing, they had become such devoted friends.  She said, "Oh no, he is gay, he told me so!!"
I guess she thought I meant did she wonder if  my dad and he might find some women to party with when they were gone!  Even when I said what I did it did not seem to occur to her that my dad and the photographer might have a physical bond.
This happened again when a Hollywood filmmaker came to town who my dad was soon taking about scouting for locations.  Mother tried to take him, the filmmaker reported to me, but he 'liked my dad', so he said he told my mother he had become impotent! Which was not true he laughed making eyes at me.   He seemed to assume that I knew my dad was bisexual.  I pretended I didn't know because I was not going to discuss this matter with a Hollywood filmmaker when I had not discussed it with anyone else up to that point. But I was always suspicious, noting whatever my dad and his partners were getting away with, hidden in the shadows of their wives' ignorance.

It might take a long time for Mother to wise up, but at least she would still be alive.  The most dangerous thing a wife or even a male victim could do, I had already discovered, was accuse one of these men of hiding the fact they were 'connected'. I looked on it as somewhat like being in the Mafia.  Perhaps men in the Mafia also kept that kind of secret.  What might make the men look bad and prove to be a disadvantage in their dealings with society was not to be discussed.  I could not even imagine the trouble I would have gotten into with my dad had I accused him.  I would have put myself at high risk, so I didn't do it.
I just kept notes.  If I wrote anything in my journals about it, I made sure my handwriting was illegible and I periodically burned them, I became that paranoid.
This still remains a loaded issue today as I write these memoirs, and I am 80 years old, so I don't think we have solved all the problems connected to this issue by any means.  The struggle is still ongoing because men with homosexual tendencies are still marrying women and hiding that fact. I have always thought people who had the kind of experiences with shadow men I did needed to write about them, in order to further progress.

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