Last week, the Associated Press reported that Walnut Hill, Fla., middle-school teacher Terence Braxton had accepted bribes from students who were eager to avoid taking gym. By paying Braxton $1 per day, the athletically disinclined were allowed to "sit out his class" — an under-the-table arrangement that may have netted the teacher thousands of dollars in extra income during the fall 2005 semester. He is currently a fugitive being pursued on bribery charges, the AP said.

Parents of students enrolled at Ernest Ward Middle School were said to be outraged, but typically, those parents weren't paying enough attention to their kids' lives. An official school handbook we obtained delineates a clear and upfront system of sanctioned payoffs, with a dollar value assigned to any course or extracurricular activity a student might want to evade. Have a look at this excerpt and you'll know the real cost of a modern education.

Phys Ed: It's OK to admit it. Nothing sends the willies scurrying up the average kid's spine like the prospect of gym class. Maybe it's the constant specter of painful humiliation. Maybe it's that weird feeling you get while climbing a rope. Maybe it's the group showering with the cruel and biologically advanced. Or maybe it's just too damn hard to run the 100-yard dash with a hangover. Whatever the reason for your advanced case of sport-o-phobia, relief is on the way. Just make a small donation of cash or in-kind services, and you can "sit out" your presidentially mandated fitness period until your spare tire rivals your teacher's in thickness and elasticity.
Cost: $1 per day — or the equivalent in smuggled-in lunchroom treats. (Note: Coin-vended goods only!)

Health: An occasional, therapeutic fit of the giggles is a small consolation for having to look at disgusting photos of hideously swollen testicles and other symptoms of aggravated venereal disease. And let's not even get into the nightmares you can contract from hearing a woman who used to be the den mother of your Weeblo pack pronounce the words "nocturnal emission."
Cost: $15 per grading period, or you can agree to regale said adult once every morning with a somewhat less mortifying Napoleon Dynamite impersonation.

Science: You students of faith know best what a minefield of aggravation this course is. And it's likely you can't decide what's worse: Listening to the heathen spew of education "experts" who don't understand that the world was created in August 1412, or the nightly updates you have to deliver to your scandalized elders. Well, render unto the teacher what is the teacher's, and you'll have an extra 50 minutes per day to do whatever it is that saved kids do, like fitting in a quick Bible-study session or dissecting a stray cat behind the bleachers to find a cure for homosexuality. Who knows? There might even be extra credit involved.
Cost: $2 per week, or one (1) mint-condition Jars of Clay hoodie.

Trigonometry: Even your teacher can't come up with a convincing argument that this stuff is going to be of any use to you one minute after you graduate. If you have to rack your brain over a bunch of numbers, it should be helping you to solve everyday problems, like how much a dime bag sells for. Better yet, let's call the whole thing off.
Cost: A dime bag.

Chess club: Our Asian students are under unique pressures of their own: Only they know the alienating monotony of the phrase "Who besides Pingyang has identified the base chemical?" Our sympathy extends all the way into the after-school hours, when we're willing to excuse them from a competitive "sport" their parents have somehow decided is every bit as rewarding as soccer.
Cost: Seven thousand yen and a stack of Lenscrafters coupons.

The daily beatdown: Though their victims would scarcely suspect it, many bullies actually hate the tough, unforgiving facade they have to put on. Behind their Neanderthal grimaces and flying fists, they're often pathetically tortured souls who yearn to devote their lives to gentler pursuits, especially since they saw Brokeback. So for everybody's sake, we're happy to make with the "Get out of sadism free" card.
Cost: Five for flinching. (You can take it, you big pussy.)

The prom/Your first time: This one cuts across social boundaries to terrify absolutely everybody. The alleged happiest night of your young life is really the culmination of months of inferiority pangs and wasted allowance — just so you can finally lose your innocence to a companion who, in all likelihood, will be one step up the ladder of presentability from a shaved baboon. Meet our price, and we'll stand at the punch bowl all night long and explain that you couldn't attend because you had fourth row for monster truck.
Cost: Eight hundred dollars across the board, no trades and no exceptions for hardship. And if spending eight bills to indefinitely delay your first sexual experience seems exorbitant, remember: Your dad paid twice as much to HAVE his. Go Wildcats!

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