I like to think of myself as of a survivor of LAUSD’s low expectations. There is a mandatory and fairly demeaning class they make you take in high school called “Life Skills” where they teach you things like how to apply for jobs at the mall, how to waste tens of thousands of dollars at Devry and how to wash your hands. For the curious, the second semester was “Health” where they showed us a lot of pictures of warty penises and had a lady come in and attempt to preach the power of abstinence. She had a power point presentation that compared her old life as a sexual deviant to how it must feel to be a used thrift store dresser at the end of the line. I was somehow the only person who didn’t take an abstinence ring from her, I guess free things triumph over values for a lot of people.
Life Skills was held in Mr. Wagner’s bungalow, which smelled of canned tuna and decades-old nickels, leaving you to wonder whether he had the same awful lunch everyday or if he was just unfortunate. I sat in the back right hand corner of the room, not necessarily by choice, but by nature of having a last name at the end of the alphabet. The class was filled with the kinds of students who were pregnant by senior year and/or still felt such a crippling pressure when they were asked to read aloud that they shook and stuttered when attempting to read at a 6th grade level. The kid in front of me orchestrated drug deals via text message in full view of the teacher, who didn’t give a fuck. Mr. Wagner is a brooding 6’5″ but was formerly hulking college basketball player whose month of glory consisted of sitting on the bench during a final four game, but never getting to participate in the joy of drenching his coach in lemon lime gatorade.
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