I had signed on to teach history and civics at Ruffin High School in Abbeville, South Carolina, but after the first week, decided I had made a mistake and went to see the principal, Dr. Beauregard Mason. A lovely young girl came out of his office, rearranging her clothes and smiling, and his slutty secretary told me I could go in.
I sat where he pointed and waited until he got off the phone. The walls were covered with big photos of football teams. "Jackson, Bill Jackson, right? How's it going, Bill. Survived your first week, that's good, damn good. Some can't hack it."
"Don't think I can, sir."
"What's the problem, boy. You jus' got started, first job ain't it?"
I nodded. "It's all the sex, sir. The fucking in the halls and the way the girls dress and act. Hard to teach in a room where girls are petting boys' cocks and the boys are feeling up their girlfriends."
"Shoot. They're young. You'll get used to it."
"Nobody reads the assignments and some of them, I'm pretty sure, can't read at all."
"Well now, some's here just to play football. They'll disappear when the season's over, be back next fall." He chuckled. "Some've been here four or five years like that."
"I had three girls come up after class and offer to suck my cock."
"Only three, boy, you must be a strict one. What're you teaching?"
"National government to the freshmen and Confederate States early history, colonial right now, to the seniors."
"Uh huh, and you're shacked up with that cute little French teacher, ain't you?"
"Off and on," I said, a bit embarrassed.
"How is she is bed. I ain't never boned her."
I ignored the question. "I'm here to resign, sir. I really can't take it. Got a hard-on all day and the whole school smells like cum."
"Yeah, they's kind of careless out in the halls and stairwells. I'll get the janitors out some more and use that disinfectant."
"Sir, I just can't teach them. I gave a pre-test in history. They don't know anything. Nothing. Not even their own county's history. And they've been in school eight or ten years."
He just shook his head. "Fraid you are stuck, boy, less'n I fire you, and I ain't gonna do that, no sir. You're a keeper. Teach and coach baseball and keep our French teacher satisfied. Ain't nobody else ever done that."
I had arrived in Abbeville in the first week of August, found a small apartment above a plumbing supply store, unloaded the Hudson and then, after a quick lunch at a soda fountain, reported to school and met the principal. He showed me around the very plain building with a fine gym and handsome football field and stands and then discussed my schedule. I had two 9th grade civics classes and three C. S. history for 11th graders, seniors. South Carolina was on an 8-3 system despite many attempts to add the 12th grade as had Virginia where I came from.
That night I studied the two syllabuses and looked at the textbooks, both a generation out of date, and the student handbook which laid down a very strict code of conduct and dress code for both boys and girls.
Ruffin High School, the only one in the county, had about 750 students and the graduating class was usually about 200. Graduates had to pass state tests of arithmetic, English and social studies. Obviously about one-third of the freshman did not manage to graduate. I knew that, in most of the Southern states, an eighth grade education was generally considered enough for most purposes.
Doctors, lawyers, and technical skills, of course, had their own schools. There was a university in Columbia and the principal had proudly told me that three of the school's recent graduates had been admitted.
The civics course had three parts: local, state and national and was, it seemed, taught by rote. The history course was heavily state centered and the textbook, I noticed, had much more on General Longstreet than it did on Lee or Jackson. Wade Hampton also got a lot of ink.