My father always said to me, “Son, if there is one thing I am going to give you, it is a damn good education.” This is why he sent me to Porter-Gaud. For those of you who are not from Charleston, Porter-Gaud is an episcopal prep school located on the banks of the Ashley River just outside of downtown in West Ashley. Thanks to my well behaved class, it gained the nickname Porno-Gaud when I was in high school, but that is a different story.
Needless to say, I hated Porter-Gaud. Well at least I hated 6th through 12th grade. I mean let’s be honest, middle school and high school can be terrible times of awkward puberty, gangly limbs, and acne, but that it not what made me so miserable at my school. I felt stuck. I felt like I had been put in the wrong box and no one would let me get out of it. I went to my parents multiple times begging them to send me to School of the Arts, Academic Magnet, or even Wando for God’s sake, but my pleas were to no avail. My Dad would just look at me and smile and say, “Son, I am going to give you a good education.” And you know what, I actually did get a really good education. I loved all my teachers, excelled in the classroom, but Dad did not understand that there is more to learning, more to adolescence, than what happens in the classroom, and I knew that I was in the wrong place but could not convince my dad of my anguish (I was a bit melodramatic back then).
However, there was one man who made my entire twelve years worth it: Dr. Slayton. I think everyone can immediately recall their favorite English teacher in high school (at least I am assuming that most English majors can easily do this), and Dr. Slayton was so much more than just an English teacher. With his constant mind games and love of Freud, he treated us as adults and taught us to read as critical, emotional, and artistic thinkers. He held a book club Wednesday mornings at 7 before school started, and it was considered a great honor to be chosen for this book club. Somehow I got chosen and it was this little group of people meeting together in the wee hours of the morning munching on donuts and discussing literature that made me want to pursue English in college. More specifically, there is one book that Dr. Slayton taught in this book club that made me want to be an English scholar. It was not Of Mice and Men or Catcher in the Rye, but John Fowles’ The Magus. With its Freudian undertones, sexual content, and Jungian premise, not too many English teachers would attempt to teach this book to high school students, but Dr. Slayton put this book in our hands and watched as we ran with it. I still have not engaged in the kinds of conversation at the College of Charleston that we had in this 12th grade English book club. These were seventeen year olds discussing Freudian versus Jungian Psychology and how that related with the New Critical ideas of the text. Dr. Slayton showed me that there were so many different ways to view one piece of literature opening up a new way of reading and a new world of reading, and he did so with the help of The Magus. So if you are looking for a great read this summer I highly recommend checking it out.