To the editors:
It was with great intrigue that I read your piece “Three Teachers Talking” (January 22). At the outset, I was under the impression that the article was just another of your great–albeit very long–human interest stories. Then, and perhaps to the author’s dismay, the characters in the story began to shed their anonymity, and I grew even more interested.
As I read, I quickly concluded that “Patrick” was none other than my goofy English teacher, who was responsible for whetting my appetite for great literature. He introduced me to J.D. Salinger, Ibsen, Camus, and soon I was addicted.
Speaking of addiction, I do feel that in all fairness to the high school, “Patrick” and “Sarah,” in particular, clearly exaggerated the drug and gang scene at that school. Granted, most of the things they revealed are true and, parenthetically, the teachers should be commended for being so candid. To say, however, that over 60 percent of the student population belongs to a gang culture is absurd. I was at that school a total of four years. I know.
It would be more accurate to say that the area is heavily saturated with gang activity, and that this, inevitably, is to some extent reflected in the student population of over 4,000. Moreover, in my four years, I do not recall ever having been approached by any gang members. I never felt threatened by gangs. Gang members were either a minority at the school, or they certainly did a good job of concealing their affiliation. (And, no, I was not the cloistered, bookworm type.)
And as far as drugs are concerned, I don’t remember ever witnessing a student consume anything stronger than an illegal box of Good-n-Plenty, in the back of a classroom. Now, that is not to say that drugs were nonexistent at the school. This is only to show how my good teacher and librarian blew things out of proportion. (Paradoxically, perhaps these faculty members unwittingly did right in using such hyperbole, thereby drawing attention to the plight of our inner city public schools.)
In addition, maybe “Patrick’s” distortions are excusable in light of his romantic tendencies. More importantly, the role he played in the interview certainly went much better with that of the protagonists in the novels he’s written (i.e. the great white liberal man teaching at a gang-infested inner-city school).
Finally, it was interesting to note how “Patrick” included the pentecostalists in his list of the many derelicts and misfits that roam the hallways of the school. I find this curious since he married one of his Pentecostal students–who I soon saw “wearing tight pants.”
These points, by the way, aren’t brought out to denigrate “Patrick” or “Sarah.” I just thought these were tasty tidbits that would complement a marvelous piece. After all, it was teachers like these who were instrumental in helping me lay a good foundation for a very successful college education (Loyola, magna cum laude), and now a decent performance in law school.