TST’S 2020 DEVIL’S
ADVOCATE SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS
WHAT INITIATIVES HAVE YOU UNDERTAKEN THAT ARE CONSISTENT WITH TST'S TENETS AND MISSION?
AUBIN, NEW YORK
Colored pencil drawing with coffee watercolor background (08/05/2020)
This piece is inspired by The Satanic Temple's first Fundamental Tenet. I hold a firm belief that all animal life is sacred and should be treated with respect. In my life, I have spent much time foraging for animal remains that may have been killed at the hands of humans (roadkill, hunting, trapping). I bring these animals home with me and give them a place in my home for them to be honored and respected in ways that they unfortunately didn’t get to experience in their time on earth. I see that these animals play a very important role in Earth’s ecosystem, but have fallen victim to the cruelty and blindness of Man. I hope that the spirits of the animals that I live with are able to find peace in knowing that their lives will not be forgotten.
Please discuss and describe in detail any one of the teachers who crushed your spirit, undermined your self-confidence, and made you hate every minute you were forced to be in school.
Hannah Rice, Arizona
It's important that I mention the fact that Arizona is ranked number 40 out of 50 states in terms of the quality of education. This is not to say the education I received wasn't more than adequate when compared to, say, children in the Middle East. Of course I could write a soliloquy of teenage angst targeted at some of my high school teachers that left a bad taste in my mouth. However, I think middle school is a much better place to look back on. That is, if you're feeling particularly nostalgic of the days when testosterone, estrogen and cortisol created an Axis Alliance ready to assault you from the moment you woke up. How fond I am of the casual homophobia and sexual harassment exhibited by the male students, while I would be publicly humiliated for daring to show approximately 3/4th of my left shoulder. It truly was the golden days.
The story I am regaling for you today in hopes of receiving a scholarship is one of not-so epic proportions. Allow me to set the scene: we open in on a halfway dilapidated blue and white brick building, a horse is the mascot. A closeted lesbian refuses to take off a leather biker jacket in 95 degree heat. As you know, nobody with the exception of possible sociopaths were confident in themselves at age 13. Also, it looked sick. All of my peers are either in all black or all neon clothing, and absolutely everyone has acne. Let me recount for you the morning routine. First, we all sit in our seats and chat for a couple minutes. We have to keep our voices down, less the teacher gets a headache. Regardless of your homeroom, you are required to do two things in the morning: complete a timed quiz, and recite the pledge of allegiance.
The daily morning quiz consisted of a two sided math test. One side is basic multiplication, the other asks you to solve fractions quickly. Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of fractions are all covered. You have only a few minutes to complete this, and then it's pencils down. I never did too well on them, but in 7th grade I wasn't the most driven pupil. Occasionally the pledge would cut off the test short, and then it would resume. If by this point you need a refresher on the proper etiquette when pledging your allegiance to the flag, you must first stand and face the nearest U.S. flag at your disposal. As the principal or front office lady recite the pledge, you say it in unison as well. As a symbol of respect, you put your right hand over your heart.
However, that morning I had made up my mind about not standing for the pledge. I had no particular agenda in mind; I was just questioning authority, as one does after your father introduces you to the artistic stylings of Rage Against the Machine. I felt anxious the entire bus ride to school that morning. In the middle of trying to remember what 1/5 plus 3/4 was, the intercom sounded with a grainy voice, "please stand for the pledge." Everyone stands. I do not. I try to avoid anyone's eyes as the boy who sits in front of me whispers to me to stand. My teacher leans over close, she's in her early 60's with a conservative hippie skirt and a black turtleneck. She says, "That is the most disrespectful thing I have ever seen. Stand now." I relent my punk ways for the last verse of the pledge to stand. She tells me I have detention. That anxious feeling sits with me the rest of the day, and I wonder if my dad will be disappointed or proud.
Hedera Belmond, Iowa
Soda Lightful, North Dakota
Five More Minutes
The sound of an alarm cuts through the silent air
Harsh and sharp and voice full of malice
He screams in my ears
Another day, another dollar
Another day at the hands of another
Another unending search for the unfindable
Of toil and sweat and empty words on a page
I feel the cogs slowly turn in my head as I relive the same day over and over again
The machine never stops
Never slows or ceases
Wake, eat, study, sleep, repeat
Endless cycles of forced structure
Though the question echoes through the caverns of my mind
My mind that is riddled with flashcards and notes and chickenscracth handwriting
Why do we allow ourselves to cage the bird?
The brain is a such beautiful thing
Her song is so lovely
A crisp melodic tune
Sung softly on a gentle breeze
But yet a symphony of bells and whistles and crashing percussion
Of trumpets and horns and colorful lights
We are capable of so much more
So many wondrous, creative, beautiful things
We are made for greatness
We are kept in a box
In a straight and steady line
The subconscious yearns for excitement
Though never to be found in the cold gray walls of textbooks and worksheets and standardized testing
The alarm continues to blare
His harsh voice taunts me
I barely even recognize this vessel anymore
Dark circles, tired eyes
There are no colors
Who is that?
Who have I become?
At the hands of the system
I have been broken into nothing more that a soulless receptacle for useless facts and bounded by the ancient texts that keep them
I rub the sore spot between my shoulders
Maybe I’ll leave the books home today
I won’t return at all
I’ll hit snooze one more time
And wake up in a world where education is more than just words on a paper
More than just empty words and phrases
More than just
An Open Letter to Ms R—
I don’t think any classroom should be ruled by fear. You clearly disagree with me.
When I was in your class, I didn’t think you either liked me or disliked me. You seemed not to notice me for the most part, for which I was grateful. Even still, for the first three-quarters of eighth grade, I walked to your class every day with knots in my stomach because I worried that this might be the day you decided I was a problem student. You dealt with problem students in ways I thought couldn’t be legal; you hit students with a lawn ornament. It was a large, plastic, red and white candy-cane, but it was thick plastic, meant to last. Never hard enough to raise a bruise, you didn’t give anyone concussions, but still, you literally hit students. All the time. You made me fear for my safety and that of my classmates. Was today going to be the day when you would hurt someone bad enough that they’d need to go to the hospital? And would you get away with that, too?
Honestly, I didn’t hate you for a long time, not until the spring. I had dealt with you for most of a school year, and I was just glad to know I’d be out of your reign of terror soon. Then, the school hosted something called a ‘courage retreat,’ where all eighth graders were walked to a church down the road from our school. This was very awkward for me, the only atheist that I knew of in my school. My 150 classmates and I piled into a large room where a nailed-up Jesus peered down at us, and we were lectured at about kindness and understanding, things that all good adults have. Then they gave us an opportunity to tell everyone gathered something important. It was optional, but almost everyone said something. I mostly didn’t listen; I was scornful of the teary-eyed bullies who were pretending to repent for their cruelty. But then, a boy I knew but didn’t know well stood up to talk to us. He took the microphone and came out to the whole grade as an atheist. I was excited to know of another like myself, but the second he handed off the microphone, you pulled the boy out of the room, obviously upset.
We didn’t see you or the boy again until the retreat was over. He was crying, Ms R—, crying because you told him he was evil for being an atheist. You clearly said more than that, but that was all anyone could get out of him. And seeing the only other one like me crying because of your abuse, I stopped being quite so afraid of you. I started to hate you instead.
I wish I had had the guts back then to tell you how I felt. I wish I could have stood up to you the next time you hit a student with your makeshift club. But of course, you built that fear in me and each and every student you taught. You built a petty dictatorship in the space of our 50-minute class, an environment of fear and shame. There are bad teachers who just don’t care about teaching. But you were in a horrid class by yourself. When you were fired, two years after I had you as a teacher, I celebrated with all the other students who hated you.
I hope I never see you again, and I hope no other school hires you. I wouldn’t wish your “teaching” on my worst enemy.
Oh, how I will forever detest the name
A young student of sweet southern roots that would normally never call a lady out in full, ruined by the exact opposite of a privilege of meeting that wretched woman
A creature crafted from the hands of hatred and injected with a darkness so sinister it brought the devil out of me
She did this to me, a transformation never able to be fully undone, never wanting it to revert back to the old form
The perfect student, a child who could do no wrong, who bit my tongue, held my peace
Continually being the bigger man in every situation, level headed and kind, a sweet faced cherub hidden amongst the masses
With a temper grown through kindness, able to withstand the shouts and slurs, a light within my soul that was of a white so pure it made my brown skin glow from the inside out
A woman who daily degraded us, a class of children no older than seventeen, a voice laced with the uptomost ridicule screeched upon our ears, bounced off the walls of the room piercing into our hearts and motivation till they bled dry on the tile floor
With every “did you even try?”, “it seems you’ve completely missed the point”, “since no one could comprehend the assignment”, we suffered, questions met with direct derision we pushed through attempting to teach ourselves, prepare for our fate leading us up to those big pearly gates of standardized test and all the secrets they hold behind
Warning signs and redflags of the past glaring deep red in hindsight, “the worst teacher I’ve ever had the displeasure of having”, “made me cry every week” , “seriously, ditch her class”
I tried to hold it in, I really did, the effort should be honored, endured hour after hour four times a week until something snapped, bursting through the skin feelings I have never experienced in such concentration ruptured my veins and seeped through my pores escaping by any means possible
I raised my voice in each class, loud above the others, it carried over the heads of my fellow prisoners in second period 408B
Not allowed, won’t be talked to this way, the light in me grew and grew morphing into a bright red blinding beam based off utter contempt, floating on the light composing message after message, meeting with teacher after teacher, principle, coach, anyone of authority who was enraptured by the red light blasting from the rage in my heart, flowing out of me for any audience I could get my newly found claws on the red dribbled out as I began turning into the once know white I had not seen since entering her godforsaken classroom, that light tainted never to fully return to it’s pristin hue
Pink light radiating from my chest turns to a pink slip handed to the one and only
Fired and forcibly removed from the school after years of oppressive teachings, years of ignominious acts and ignorance, crushing the self worth and image of student after student, harming the minds of young child after child
Robin fucking Koger.
Twenty-five year teaching career ended at the mercy of one student who couldn’t take the abuse any longer