The Schoolhouse 

Chapter 2

All of the teachers were chosen because of their unique abilities and high level of appreciation for the principle. But this in no way meant they were all the same. Each of the twelve have their own personality. For instance Ed Pendergast the math teacher had a very dry sense of humor. He was tall thin and wore sweaters year round. Even in the dead of summer he would loosely tie the sleeves around his collar and allow it to hang on his back like a cape. Rebecca Wines was a youthful teacher fresh out of college and bubbling with enthusiasm. The science teacher Linda Zimmerman acquired to be a scientist out of college. She was a promising student and all of her professors expected she would go on to do great things. To everyone’s surprise she decided to take a semester off to find herself. When she returned Linda changed her major and decided to become a teacher. The social studies teacher Karl Kramer was always interested in people. He preferred frequenting the bars over the libraries. Though he would moderately drink he wasn’t overly fond of alcohol. What drew him to the bars is the people. He enjoyed observing and conversing with people in this environment. He found them to be more relaxed. Their social barriers opened. The English teacher Charles Henderson never used foul language. It wasn’t only when around students he watched his speech but even in the teacher’s lounge. Even in the privacy of his own home. For example once while repairing a door in his house that didn’t close properly he painfully injured his hand with a large splinter. For a full fifteen minutes any one passing by could hear colorful language being shouted from the house. Words perhaps they didn’t even know existed but not a single expletive. With so many words in the English language to choose from Charles didn’t see the need to swear. Susan Ramoux had married a Frenchman and moved to France out of college. After years of living abroad and soaking up culture her husband’s job brought them back to the states. She wanted to share all of her rich experiences with others so she became a French teacher. The philosophy teacher Kevin Young always had a love of knowledge. It only seemed natural to him that he should become a teacher. Not because he felt overly compelled to contribute something to society but rather because it was a profession that would allow him to indulge in his pleasure while at the same time making a living. Steve Hernandez had a Spanish background though he lived in the states all his life. He learned Spanish from his grandparents who were  Argentinian. Steve looked and spoke like a white American. His ancestors lived in Germany before they migrated to Argentina after World War II. When Steve spoke Spanish his accent was perfect. Steve Hernandez became the Spanish teacher. For Patrick Johnson the ethics teacher there were no gray areas. He saw things in black and white. When asked his opinion on something he never beat around the bush. What drew him to the principle was its simplicity. It fit in with the way he already viewed the world. Catherine Peters became the chemistry teacher though she wasn’t particularly passionate about chemistry. The art teacher Barbara Childs always pushed for freedom of expression. Her life goal was to find a new form of expression that would have a favorable impact on the world. The home economics teacher Jessica Lewallen was a practical person. On the surface she appeared to be as delicate as a vase. But in actuality she was as tough as nails. William Parkson the principal was a very humble man. He liked for the teachers to call him Bill instead of Mr. Parkson. He would even hide the name plate on his desk because he felt it intimidated visitors. He had an open door policy partly because he wanted the faculty to see him as a friend rather than as a boss. The other reason was because there was a conspicuous name plate with his title chiseled in brass displayed on his door. When the door was open the brass plate was hidden. He tried to keep the door open whenever possible.

The school system was set up in such a way that each teacher would teach only one subject to the children from kindergarten to graduation day. The teachers were to adjust the difficulty level of the class as the children progressed into the higher grades. The school didn’t accept transfer students. Which meant all the eventual graduates would have had the same teachers for 13 years straight. This being the first year all the teachers prepared only the kindergarten lesson plans. To the novice it may appear that the teachers have an easy year ahead of them with only one class per day and that with kindergarten children. On the contrary this was to be the most difficult year because the teachers needed to lay the groundwork for the years ahead. They couldn’t just go through the motions of teaching then pass the child over to the next grade where he or she would be someone else’s problem. Each teacher knew that they would be held responsible for the intelligence level of the eventual graduate. The graduate was their work from the foundation up. This put a great deal of pressure on the teachers to be diligent in each classroom because a mistake by one teacher could easily infect other classrooms. Some of the teachers worried that they would not be up to the challenges imposed upon them. However they were reassured that as long as they stick closely to the core principle they would have no problem. Each teacher had their own leather bound copy of the principle. They were to use it as a guide in making their lesson plans in the coming years. On the first day of school everyone was anxious. However as soon as the children shuffled on to the school grounds and began playing the teacher’s were put at ease. Some of the children were so small it was hard to believe they were old enough to begin school. But they had in fact all been examined through the school’s orientation program. The schoolmaster had personally introduced himself to each child. Using the principle he clearly explained what was required of them.  For example that they were not allowed to touch the fire alarm. It was not their place. Only an adult could pull the red emergency lever sounding the alarm if he or she deemed it necessary.The children understood. They were ready. As the clock struck 8:00 am the schoolhouse bell began to ring. The children were organized into two single file lines along side the schoolhouse by alphabetical order according to their last names. The next bell meant the children were to enter the building. The first day went perfectly. The teacher’s followed their lesson plans which were in perfect agreement with the principle. As a general rule children normally have a short attention span but for some reason the children hung on every word and soaked in the information like sponges. This was a pleasant surprise to all of the teachers but no one was as affected by this detail as much as Mr. Young. As the children’s tiny eyes focused on his every movement and clung to his every word Kevin Young began to feel something he had never experienced before. He had always taken in knowledge for his own pleasure. For the first time in his life he found pleasure in seeing others take in knowledge. He had witnessed others taking in knowledge before but it had no effect on him. “Perhaps it’s because they are children,” he pondered. “They are so impressionable. They’re like a blank slate. Whatever I tell them becomes their reality.”  After the children had filed out of his classroom, Mr. Young collapsed into his chair and grinned. He had never experienced such joy. After many minutes of basking in his new found joy his grin suddenly faded and his brow wrinkled. He quickly shook his head dismissing the thought that had invaded his mind. However for the rest of the day the idea kept returning and when it did he would slightly lift one of his eyebrows. Finally near the end of the day he lifted one of his eyebrows than frantically shuffled through his desk until he found his leather bound copy of the principle. He opened it and began reading. After a moment he closed the book and sat silently lost in thought. Instead of returning the book to its place in his desk he placed it into his briefcase. From that day forward Kevin Young took the book home with him every night, brought it back and placed it into his desk every morning.

The schoolhouse promoted a comfortable yet efficient routine for every student and faculty member. One day about halfway through the school year Mr. Pendergast, Ms. Wines, Ms. Zimmerman, and Mr. Kramer were relaxing in the teacher’s lounge when Mr. Young walked in. He was carrying a leather bound book. It was identical to the book containing the principle but instead of black the book Mr. Young carried was bound in red leather. “What’s that Kevin?” asked Mr. Pendergast staring at the book. Mr. Young glanced absentmindedly at the book he was carrying. “What’s that Ed? Oh yes. The principle. I’ll get to that in a minute but first I want to pick your brain about something.” His interest aroused Mr. Pendergast straightened the sleeve of his sweater and raised his eyebrows attentively to Kevin Young. Mr. Young sat down. “Ed, how would you feel if one day you found out that everything you knew about the world in which you live was a lie?” Mr Pendergast wrinkled his brow. “For example,” continued Mr. Young. “Take those sweaters you’re so fond of. I imagine when you put on that sweater this morning you did so because you knew you would be chilly without it. But who says you have to wear a sweater to stay warm? Why can’t you decide to not wear a sweater and yet still stay warm? Or maybe you wear sweaters because you like the way you look in them. Nothing wrong with that. But on the sweltering hot days who says you can’t wear a sweater and yet still feel comfortable?” Mr. Pendergast peered at Mr. Young in a manner that indicated he harbored doubts about Mr. Young’s sanity. “I don’t quite follow you Kevin. Are you feeling alright? What have you been reading lately?” Mr. Pendergast inadvertently glanced at the red book. As if noticing the book for the first time Kevin Young opens the book and begins reading a random passage. “Maybe I’m going about this the wrong way,” said Mr. Young. It was obvious he was talking to himself but the comment was made aloud. “You teach Math right? I’ll try and put this in terms you’re familiar with.” By now the conversation had drawn the attention of the other teachers and they drew closer to listen in.”The schoolmaster’s principle is straight forward and concrete. It’s as concrete as twice two equals four. But people  are not as simple or concrete as twice two equals four. To accurately describe humankind I would say twice two equals x. X is an unknown variable.” Mr. Pendergast eyes widened. “But x is four.” “It doesn’t have to be,” responded Mr. Young. “It also doesn’t have to be so simple. Y plus two equals equals X is just as good as twice two makes four. But in the variable x isn’t necessarily four. X could be four but that depends on y being 2. Who says y has to be two. In a variable y is a mystery waiting to be discovered. Y could be anything you or I decide that it is temporarily until the problem is worked out.” “So you’re saying Y could be three?” asked Ms. Wines. “In which case x wouldn’t equal four. It would equal five.” “Exactly,” replied Kevin Young. “Or you could start with x. You could decide that x is 5 or six or 56. Whatever you want.” Mr. Kramer stood up. “How is that possible? Y plus 2 equals a static number. The fact that Y is a mystery doesn’t change that.” “No,” interrupted Ms. Zimmerman. “But until the problem is worked out no one can successfully challenge your claim that x equals five or six or 56.” “That’s the beauty of variables,” added Mr. Young. “They take time to figure out. And until the problem is completely worked out no one can challenge your claim.” Mr. Young slowly looked around at each of his colleagues. “No one. Not even the schoolmaster.” Just as Mr. Young’s insinuation began to make an impression on the faces of his listeners, Patrick Johnson the Ethics teacher walks in. An awkward silence fills the room. “My ears are ringing. Were you talking about me?” joked Mr. Johnson. “No,” laughed Mr. Young. “Ed was helping me work out a math problem.” Kevin Young slips the red bound book into Mr. Pendergast’s brief case. “Well I’ve got to get back to work. I’ve yet to prepare tomorrow’s lesson plan.” The teachers eventually dispersed and for the rest of the day no one brought up the idea of an alternate principle. 

A few weeks later Mrs. Lewallen notices Mr. Young out by the creek during recess. He is kneeling down and talking to Andy one of the children in her home economics class. Something about the sight strikes her as unusual. There was no rule against teachers conversing with students during recess but it just wasn’t done. Recess was seen as their time. 

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williamchasterson

My name is William Chasterson. I’m a writer and a student of history. I was raised in the Midwest of the United States in a very conservative town of about 15,000 people. In my twenties I moved to New York which is where I’ve been for the past 15 years. After the first few years of culture shock I was finally able to settle into my environment and actually consider myself a New Yorker. For the past year however I’ve been living in the third world. I’m not going to mention the name of the country I moved to both for my own safety and because this is not a political blog. The purpose of this blog is to analyze the human psyche and to develop a theory I’ve been slowly formulating my entire life which is that we are all the same. No matter our race, gender, language, or economic status we are all of us equals. While this idea sounds cliche most people’s actions indicate that they don’t really believe it.

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