Those of us who don’t have kids in school really have no idea what’s going on in America’s public schools.
A recent assignment for an English class in Scotland County High School, Memphis, Missouri, gives us a glimpse into what passes as education in our schools.
Todd Starnes of Fox News reports, May 1, 2017, that he received an email from a mom in Scotland County, Missouri. Starnes writes:
Her daughter came home from school with a jaw-dropping assignment full of sexually suggestive language. The assignment appears to be excerpted from “How to Set a House On Fire,” written by Stace Budzko.
It was a pseudo-word problem about a relationship between a man named Larry and a woman named Prudence. Prudence, as the assignment goes, had sex with 21 men and 3 women and engaged in “heavy petting.”
“What percentage of time will Prudence be inhibited in bed with Larry, and consequently fake orgasm to ease his pride?”
A few thoughts, good readers.
First, Prudence does not sound all that prudent. Second, that assignment is definitely inappropriate for a bunch of 16-year-old’s in a high school English class.
“This is something I imagine you would see on a coffee table every brothel,” the outraged mom told me.
The mom reached out to the principal at the high school in Scotland County — and got a bit of a run-around.
“He told me that this teacher was originally a college teacher and he sometimes has trouble differentiating between what is appropriate for a 15 or 16-year-old and a 19 or 20-year-old,” she said.
I reached out to Ryan Bergeson, the superintendent of schools, and he seemed genuinely concerned about the assignment and promised to investigate. A few hours later, he returned my call and assured me the assignment was not part of any approved curriculum.
He went on to tell me they took appropriate action with the teacher and promised this would never happen again. Ever. And based on the tone of his voice – I believe him.
Back when I was in school word problems were not nearly that sexually charged: If Train A is traveling at 80 mph and Train B is traveling at 100 mph, who is riding in the caboose?
Here’s a pic of the bizarre assignment:
- The assignment is phrased as a mathematical question, with numbers of pseudo-precision (Prudence is 34 years old; Larry is 37; Prudence had slept with 21 men and 3 women; Larry with 3 women), to which there is no correct mathematical answer as to “what percentage of time will Prudence be inhibited in bed with Larry, and consequently fake orgasm to ease his pride?”.
- Posed as a pseudo-mathematical problem, the assignment is actually for an English class.
Readers’ comments on Todd Starnes’ report indicate that the “Prudence had sex with 21 men and 3 men” assignment is one of four “Word Problems” in a Test written by G. A. Ingersoll which is posted on the website of Longwood University, Farmville, VA.
Note: I cannot find anyone named G. A. Ingersoll among Longwood University’s faculty. But there is a G. A. Ingersoll on zoominfo, who calls him/herself a “Creative Non-Fiction Editor” for the online literary magazine Word Riot.
Here’s Part One of Ingersoll’s Test:
Part One: Word Problems
Instructions: You have thirty minutes for this section. Record your answers legibly in the space provided. To be eligible for partial credit, be sure to show all of your work.
- Leonard walks down aisle five at Price Chopper. He is eighty-six years old. He wears a size thirteen shoe. He puts the following items into the basket of his shopping cart: three cans of split pea soup, three cans of tomato soup, one can of chicken noodle soup. The price of each can is more than twice what it was four decades ago. Already in his cart are two boxes of oyster crackers (buy one get one free) and a package of all-beef hot dogs, for which he has a coupon for thirty-five cents. When his rife Rosa was dying of breast caner, she made him swear to eat at least on hot meal a day. Rosa died three years ago this Sunday. Allowing for holidays with his married niece and the occasional church supper, how many cans of soup has Leonard consumed during this time period?
- John and Linda meet at an AA meeting, John is twenty-three years old, and has been sober one year, three weeks, and two days. He lives in a rented rehearsal space, where he practices classical guitar and writes songs about isolation and longing. Linda is twenty-two years old, and has been clean forty-five days. She lives in a halfway house, where she practices not killing herself and writes a recovery journal. He pursues her with melancholy poetry about beauty and sin, death and salvation. They become lovers, against the advice of her support group. They share a mutual kindness, an appreciation for modern European novelists, and a restlessness that each hopes will be satiated by enough restaurant food. John’s depression deepens, although he is taking sixty milligrams daily of a popular antidepressant. Soon he can only lie on his bed and cry. He refuses to see anyone but Linda. After six weeks of this Linda breaks it off, fearing for her own stability. Six months later, John is dead of a heroin overdose. What should Linda say to his parent at the funeral?
- Margaret’s conscious death anxiety is such that she spends a total of thirty minutes daily obsessed with thoughts of dying prematurely. It has been shown that stress and anxiety contribute to heart disease, and heart disease is an up-and-comer as a killer of women. By how many years will Margaret’s life be shortened by her fear?
- Prudence is thirty-four. She has had sex with twenty-one men and three women. After being celibate for three years, she meets Larry and a romance begins to develop. Larry is thirty-seven. One night he proposes that, things going the way he thinks they’re going between them, they talk about their sexual histories. Larry confesses to having slept with three women, one of whom is married. She tells him that she has slept with three men. Larry is uncomfortable with this number, especially since Prudence is younger than he is. She amends it, saying that one was just heavy petting. Given Prudence’s reflexive need for approval and Larry’s clear ideas of how things should be, what percentage of the time will Prudence be inhibited in bed with Larry, and consequently fake orgasm to ease his pride?
- Once again, all four “Word Problems” are written with pseudo-mathematical precision, although they are not actual mathematical problems that require a mathematical answer.
- All four “Word Problems” are about disturbing subjects — a widowed 86-year-old man subsisting on canned soup; alcoholics; a woman obsessed with death; and promiscuous Prudence.
I also don’t get how a student can give appropriate answers to these “Word Problems” or how answers are to be graded.
In the readers’ comment section on Todd Starnes’ post, several readers who identified themselves as students at Scotland County High School defended the teacher, insisting that he’s a good teacher and that 16-year-old students already know about sex and so a class assignment about promiscuous Prudence is no big deal.
A reader “Missy” identified the teacher as Dane Riggenbach, and that he was placed on administrative leave, then resigned. Missy wrote that Riggenbach “professes to be a nonbeliever in God & an outspoken Liberal.”
Other readers confirmed what Missy wrote to be true. Indeed, Riggenbach is identified on Scotland County School District’s website as having taught Communication Arts in the English Department for grades 9-12.
Amazon.com describes Dane Riggenbach as the author of John of God, who “lives and works in Northeastern Missouri, where he teaches writing and American Lit, primarily.” John of God is a medical thriller about a serial killer who gets “holy visions” from God telling him to kill people.
It isn’t just Scotland County High School that has corrupt curriculum. A reader of Todd Starnes’ article, KellievCash, wrote this comment:
I was floored when my 10year old son told me that his 4gr teacher had an open discussion with them about “how many boys liked boys” and” how many girls like girls” and who all” liked both”