Become an 1819 Member

Basic

$10.99/month

1819

$18.19/month

Premium

$50.99/month
Sign up

Recently my high school had a big reunion. You know, one of those zero-numbered deals.

I had no desire to go. I've never been back since graduation day. Unlike many who look forward to such events, reunions are just a reminder that high school was the ninth circle of hell for me. Except for a couple of lifelong friends (who also have no desire to return), I got very little from the experience.

Because my high school was really different.

I attended public school through sixth grade, then went to a Catholic junior high. I figured I'd be going to the local Catholic high school, but my parents decided I'd be better off at the all-boys school my cousin had attended since it had a reputation for getting kids into good colleges.

Freshman year was downright strange. First, no girls around. No female teachers either. Half the teachers were priests. In the middle of class on my first day, one priest reached into his pocket, pulled out a pack of Luckies, and lit up a cancer stick. Jaws dropped. And then one kid asked, "Can we smoke in here too?" The priest nodded — no reason for "smokin' in the boys' room" at this school. Imagine your kid coming home from freshman year smelling like an ashtray. Later in the class, that priest dropped a couple of f-bombs. None of this would happen if girls were in the school.

This was a far cry from my last classrooms run by nuns.

I'd been a straight-A student to that point, but two classes derailed me that year — Spanish and, of all things, Latin. Why we needed to learn Latin was beyond me, but it's a backward language that's difficult to process. (The speech pattern of Yoda is based on Latin.) I'm one of those people who simply can't learn a new language. I spent so much time dealing with these two classes my other grades suffered. One of my buddies wrote this in his book:

Latin is a dead language,

As dead as it can be,

It slowly killed the Romans,

And now it's killing me.

My parents were not pleased with my grades but hoped my sophomore year would be better. And then the school made that happen.

Because teachers stopped giving letter grades.

We would now receive "evaluation sheets," which would be handwritten accounts of our performance. We all knew this was not going to end well once parents found out.

So the first grading period arrived, and Dad asked to see my report card. Instead, I handed him a stack of evaluation sheets.

He furrowed his brow. "What the heck are these?"

"The new report cards. No more grades."

He started to read. Comments from teachers ranged from "He is an attentive student and does excellent work" to "Your son is still having trouble grasping the basics of this class." (Latin teacher) My Dad shook his head. "How are you supposed to get into college without grades?"

Turned out he wasn't the only angry parent. The next few days, parents bombarded the school with complaints. The evaluation sheets quickly vanished, and we went back to letter grades.

Meanwhile, we were getting interested in girls, but there weren't any around.

Junior year brought biology class, but the new teacher wanted us to have a hands-on experience. We would get a partner, be assigned a patch of overgrown land behind the school, and have to successfully grow something. And the teacher was not going to provide garden tools, so we had to bring shovels and rakes to class. Since we rode a commuter train to get there, this resulted in strange looks from the conductor.

The day before we were to be graded, my partner and I looked at our patch of dirt. Not even a sprout. Then he had a brilliant idea. "Give me a few bucks. I'm going to the gardening supply store after school, and I'll plant some stuff tonight." Next day our bit of land looked like something from a magazine, filled with colorful flowers. We got a good grade. But did we learn anything? Nah.

Senior slump started the first day of that school year. I couldn't wait to get out of there. And then they threw a curveball at us for graduation. Caps and gowns? Nope. We had to rent white dinner jackets. We looked ridiculous.

Of course, the big problem with an all-boys high school is that you end up socially awkward not being around girls for four years. For me, it was no dances, no girlfriend, no dates, no prom. Then you get to college and find the girls you knew in eighth grade are now young women, and you're clueless as to how to deal with them.

The all-boys school is still there, and there are plenty of such institutions around the country, along with all-girls schools. Parents, if you're reading this, don't. Just don't do that to your kid.

You'll end up with a child who can't talk to the opposite sex… except maybe in Latin. But trust me, "carpe diem" is not a great pickup line.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.

Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.

Become an 1819 Member

Sign up