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Francis W. Parker

If you have kids, you live in downtown Chicago, and you can afford it, there are two private schools: Francis Parker, and the Latin School. I ended up going to Parker because my brother kicked/bit a teacher when he visited Latin.

His instincts were true, because as it turned out, Parker identifies itself as a "progressive" school (no SAT prep, few AP courses, little emphasis on grades). It may have manifested as an underlying attitude more than anything else, but Parker was casual and cool - certainly seems so when I talk to other folks about their school experiences.

We were casual and cool, because we hung out in the halls. There were no class bells.

It was expensive, perhaps largely education for the leisure class. There was a large scholarship fund, but the school reflected more the racial makeup of the immediate enclave (lilies) than the city at large.

There was some spine, some strength, in the classes; I read books and experienced ideas in Parker classrooms that my sophomore and junior college classmates were just being exposed to.

Like Swarthmore College, Parker is well greened; it had a tree lined courtyard and a full sized soccer field in the middle of the big city.

Parker was small, Parker was intimate. I went to school there from the time I was in Junior Kindergarten, until I graduated high school. Out of a graduating class of 70, 33 folks had been there since day one, 14 years. We had some heavy relationships.

Parker and I had a rocky relationship. I was kicked out of class fairly often then, beginning a habit that mushroomed into thrice a week exile in first grade. In second grade, things got ugly - the teacher segregated me from my peers at all times in home room, I was made to sit at a desk alone and was to have no contact with anyone.

I guess I was a bit of a spaz.

I think I just refused to take orders, and I had a strong personal sense of justice that was easily aroused. Also, I was needy and edgy around my peers - I wasn't too good at respecting other people's space and I needed folks to listen to me - thanks heavens I finally found the web.

I was still prone to outburst in third grade, when my father committed suicide; I think it eventually mellowed me out a bit.

Sixth grade I did a book report on Go Ask Alice, the sordid diary of a drug addict. It was a marvelous opportunity to stand before the class and read graphic descriptions of intoxicated orgies and drugs for sex ugliness. I still hadn't been there myself.

In eighth grade, I got a job at Software Etc, served as class president with Jeeks, and failed English and history first semester. The timing was off - my mother had just brought George the Greek into my life, and my brother was leaving for college. Fortunately, I started hanging with Ted, and I was finding my voice: my second short story Max.

On October 4, 1988, my eighth grade English teacher had us do some grammar exercises. I was struck by the stupidity of it all, and instead of doing the assignment, I wrote a poem. When came time to share our progress, I read the following:

Take a trip with me my friend, take a trip.

Take a trip to a place where the butts of society run rampant raping and pillaging the minds of our children.

Education teaches them to come on to us in this way, with their tempting chant of mockery of our thought.

They want us to stop learning what's practical and learn to interact with our T.V.

They tell us they are educating the entire character and honing our listening skills but all they are doing is making us into little mental turds that continue the traditions of rote education.

So I encourage you to break free and educate yourself on things that shall be practical, i.e. Japanese, when we lose our squeaky wheel gets the oil philosophy.

The teacher was shaking when I finished. I was surprised that I didn't get in trouble.

High school began under better auspices - I was inspired by a class or two, and worked on the school newspaper. I liked my English teacher particularly, Nancy, we used to talk about spirituality quite a bit. I ended up going to a Mormon service with her.

I was still a troublemaker; in first year math, I raised my hand and asked Mr. Barrett if he'd ever had gonorrhea. I got very kicked out for that.

Tenth grade was a strange year. I birthed and saw to completion the addition of a stage to our school's county fair. With Josh, I co-organized the school's Martin Luther King Day celebration. I was an editor for the newspaper, and representative to the Board of Trustees. I finally found a social group, and began recreational marijuana use on the weekends.

Second semester, I failed history, biology and math. I spent the summer in summer school, three hours a week of geometry. July 3, I shaved my head, to the tune of Nothing's Shocking, by Jane's Addiction.

I tried to have a good attitude, really I did.

I came back junior year, and never got anything lower than a B, except when I retook biology.

I remember fondly most all of my teachers, I regularly return to school to visit them folks. Most of them are so smart and dedicated - it's hard to believe they're still there, working on those thick young minds.

Besides those who've expanded my general bibliography and advised me by phone since, there were a few outstanding characters: for all the years but seventh and freshman, Barr McCutcheon was my math teacher.

Marie K. Stone adopted me after she adopted my brother.

My computer skills came in handy laying out publications at the school. My friend Jeeks ran the literary magazine Phaedrus, we burned much midnight oil on my old Gateway 2000 laying it out in PageMaker.

I wrote for the school quite a bit as well:

Sophomore year, I wrote about this cool thing I'd discovered the Internet.

Junior year, I wrote quite a moralistic tract about the Ignorance, Affluence, and Apathy pervading the school.

One thing I loved about Parker was being able to participate in theatre, in addition to all this madness -

besides "third silent young man" in the Boyfriend, Guys and Dolls, I was the suicidal soldier boy Punky Givens in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, November 1990, Dr. Gibbs (Amir Hassan / Jeremy Sisto's father) in Our Town, November 1991 (which actually traveled to the Illinois High School Theatre Festival in January 1992; I met Heather Dawn Brown there - thanks for the ring!); angry songless southerner Lee Calhoun in Babes in Arms, the Humbug in the Phantom Tollbooth, the page in Antigone (with my brother), and my one singing lead: Colonel Caverley in Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience/Bunthorn's Bride, in March 1993. I still know half the song - please ask me to sing it!

End of junior year, I ran for President of the Student Government against my good friend Josh Koppel. I won, but lost a strong connection. The culmination of that whole scene was speaking at graduation.

http://www.links.net/vita/fwp/