California, ever desiring to be in advance of everyone else, no matter the costs or consequences, decided to offer local schools a new idea called charters. Each school could write its own charter on how the school would operate. They would be released from all other state requirements as long as they followed their charter. The idea being that experimental schools would discover methods that worked best in educating kids and those ideas would gain acceptance and be integrated into the normal public schools. It also meant that some ideas wouldn't work, but there is that cost to being on the 'bleeding' edge of advances.
The only real opposition came from the teacher's union. Teacher's unions are quite interesting. They oppose any real advancement in teaching except higher pay raises for teachers. It's as if the only way to educate students is to put every dime in the pockets of the teachers. Who needs school lunches, books, janitors, grounds keepers, or administrators to keep the whole thing running? Put all of the money in teachers' pockets.
Unions also fight against getting rid of bad teachers, no matter how bad they are. So the unions fought against charters, rightly fearing that the advances would show that some of the current problems come down to bad teachers doing a bad job.
Ninety percent of all teachers work hard to educate kids. It's that other 10% that the unions spend all of their time keeping on the payroll, and consequently, paying union dues. As a side benefit, the politicians hoped that charters would help eliminate these bad teachers by exposing them, since the politicians couldn't and wouldn't take on the unions directly.
That's enough background.
I was tired of my job. I had graduated with an MBA and went to work for a Wall Street firm making good money. In my twenty years there, I had managed to sock away a good deal of cash in tax deferred retirement funds as well as other investments.
Several years earlier, while working on a big client I happened to come across a little scheme that the partners were running. It was also, to put it gingerly, slightly illegal, as well as cheating the clients. If information on this little scheme got out, the firm could have been ruined and the partners involved might have been raking golf courses in some Federal, um, summer camp.
When I spoke to my senior partner, I happened to mention my own desire to retire early. He gave me an appraising look and dropped all pretenses and offered to let me in on the scheme. So, after twenty years on the street, I had plenty of money to retire and did. Yeah, I ought to feel badly about the scheme, but I don't. Caveat Emptor, buddy. If you don't want to make sure your broker is honest, good luck to you. To save fools from their folly is to fill the world with fools. Just look at Congress and that voters won't kick them out to know we have already filled the world with fools.
I moved home to California, happy to be out of the snowy humid east. Unfortunately, I wasn't really old enough to sit on my ass all day and quickly grew bored. That's when a neighbor told me about this new school that was going to open. I didn't even need a teaching credential; my master's degree was enough. The school was going to be based on the teachings of Jeremy Bentham, the libertarian philosopher. The emphasis of the school was real world application of knowledge and the school needed teachers who knew actual business rather than just academic subjects. It fit me like a glove, so I applied.
The first year the school was small, only 300 kids. All of the teachers wound up teaching all sorts of subjects, with emphasis on practical application to the real world. For instance, when teaching Trig the students had to go out and measure the height of the buildings using shadow lengths rather than just read about it in a stuffy classroom. We also didn't have grade levels. If a 12-year-old wanted to take Econ, he or she could.
All students had to master certain disciplines and take a specified number of classes to graduate, but what those were, were up to the students and their parents. So, it wasn't unusual to have classes with students that ranged in age from eleven to eighteen. All were held to the same standards.
Enrollment took off in the next two years and we began adding more subjects, always with an emphasis on real life application. I was able to spend more time with the older students teaching real business courses. I was having a blast, since a libertarian foundation went through the whole curriculum, these students wouldn't take crap and demanded to know how things worked and how they worked to make everyone better off, not just robbing Peter to pay Paul, the way most Government programs work. The one thing about Government programs is the politicians know they'll always have Paul's support.
It was at the beginning of the third year that the Headmaster, Judy Nichols, pulled me aside in the first planning session and told me that she wanted me to teach a new course. They were asking me because I was single and she felt that being single would make it easier to take on this new class. I wondered what in the hell could make being single an advantage but just asked her, "What class?"
She smiled, "Sex Ed."
I laughed. "What's the big deal, Judy?"
She smiled and said, "You're forgetting the basic principle of practical application of all of our classes."
That rocked me. In a flash I understood why they wanted a single teacher. But they couldn't really be thinking that? "You're kidding?"
She shook her head. "The class will have an age limit, fourteen and above, but students under that can be admitted with parental permission, on a case by case basis, if they are physically and emotionally mature enough. You know how girls, especially, are growing up early these days. It doesn't do any good to teach them Sex Ed two years after they start having sex. Will you take the class?"
I nodded, unable to trust my voice. I might as well admit, that like any male teacher, and from the news reports, many female teachers as well, I have fantasies about some of my students. I had managed to keep my dick in my pants, despite provocation from flirting girls who knew exactly how to arouse a man, by frequently resorting to beating peter into submission. Sometimes, I had to use my lunch break to beat it back into submission after one of the little tarts would bend over in front of my desk and display her assets. So, this class didn't exactly strike me as a horrible idea.
"And the curriculum?" I asked.
"Our usual. Start with theory and then show how to apply the theory to the real world. That's why the students have to be old enough to apply the theory," she said.
That was plain enough. I nodded acceptance. "Thanks, Mike. I could see it being a problem for a married instructor."
"Yeah." That was a classic understatement.
First day of school is always hectic and this one was no exception. I was even more nervous than usual, however. I taught two sections of business in the morning and two sections of history, my undergraduate minor. After lunch, I taught a section of music appreciation, quite a different course for me, since I don't read music, but I love nearly everything except hip hop. On the other hand, hip hop is just like real music, except for the profoundly stupid lyrics, so I guess it isn't a problem that I skip that.
My last class was Sex Education. As I sat in the classroom waiting for students, my stomach was filled with butterflies, big lead butterflies. The students started filing in. They had all signed up for the course and their parents had approved it. As the bell rang I looked around the class. It was about even, male and female. It was also younger than I expected. Most of the students looked to be about fourteen. I had expected the students taking the course to be older.
I stood up and welcomed the students. I recognized many of the students from other classes. But some of them were new to me so I had them all tell me their names, their ages, and why they were taking the course. Pretty standard first day for me in any course.
Several of the girls were fourteen and one girl, Lisa Hernandez, was thirteen, though she did look older. Most of the students were fifteen with several sixteen. None of the students were older than sixteen. None of the boys were under fourteen.
After they had introduced themselves, I did the same. Then I started the real class. The first thing I did was ask them a question. "Why do you think there aren't any older students?"
Several people raised their hands. I pointed to one girl, Jenna, "They already know about sex. They've been having sex for several years."
I was surprised, but she was probably right. "Is that why you are all taking the class, to learn how to have sex?" The heads all nodded. "Good, let's do it."
One way Bentham is different is that every student is issued a laptop. Every desk has a port right on the desk that connects to the school network and the Internet. When I ask for homework the students download it right then into my computer. When I pass out assignments, bang, they download. No paper.
I hit a key and downloaded the 'book' into every computer. Once I knew I was going to teach this class, I looked at several standard Human Sexuality texts. They were all boring beyond endurance. It was as if the authors tried their damndest to take all of the sex out of sexuality and make it as boring as possible. Most teachers at Bentham didn't use standard textbooks because textbook authors are bad writers; they remove the context and controversies, and write down to their audience. I almost never used a standard text for the same reasons.
.... There is more of this story ...