Dead In The Water: Patrolling the mean streets of English Education


Jacob Stewart

Driving the Omaha metro area to Bellevue East High School, I can’t help but think of the intro to HBO’s hit series, “The Sopranos”—it’s a far cry from the small-town comfort of Wayne, the familiarity of the campus.

Seeing all of the city lights blazing out into the early morning, I get the sense that I’m lost in the black and white backdrop of 1940s Los Angeles.

After all, here I am, an old con on parole, let loose on the city streets with a mind set on the future, petty thieving morphed into big-time operations.

When I wander the white halls of the high school, I can’t help but think of myself as the new muscle of the academic La Cosa Nostra, but deep down I’ve got the notion of being more than muscle—a capo de regime, maybe even a consigliere—working my way up the ladder.

Wayne State College was crowded with locked up wise guys and girls, and sure, I’ve met plenty who were of the “Goodfella” status, but now that I’m out it’s more than survival, now it’s a shot for a place in the big leagues.

I know what some of my readers are thinking. Comparing education to the Mafia and teachers to gangland suits is dark, but for the readers who know me well, it’ll make some sense, and after my years on the inside, I’ve learned that dark is as close to honest as you can get. When you get down to it, that’s the racket of English Education, the truth of ourselves. We pack novels in the shoulder holsters under our suit jackets, and we sell big ideas and critical thinking.

Perhaps all of this is coming from my time reading Black Mass (the story of James “Whitey” Bulger, an Irish crime boss in South Boston), or maybe it’s just the fact that I’ve always wanted to turn the good guys into villains, but then again, society has done a pretty good job of that already with the beatings teachers have taken, especially in public schools.

The modern age has turned parents into crusading cops and feds are wanting to chip away at teachers one by one. Teens can’t be blamed for being teens; no, a lack of interest leading to failing grades is aimed at the teachers, and believe me, indictments have ruined the “Family.”

With that in mind, I ought to find myself a slick mob lawyer. The two of us can cruise the metro in a black Lincoln Continental or Cadillac El Dorado. Three-piece suits with the finest of fedoras. Yeah, that’s a realistic thought on a teacher’s salary.

Not that I’m doing this for the money. No, you go in on that idea and you’re wasting your time. This is my dream job, folks, and the thought of influencing students to embrace Shakespeare and American literature is my crime spree. Just keep that on the down low, or, as said in L.A. Confidential, hush-hush.

The old con on parole isn’t looking to go back to the inside, at least not without leaving his mark on the outside.