Is it Okay to Say “Pussy” in a Christian School?

February 2010, Louisiana Tech vs. University of Hawai

Part two of Teaching Profanity as a Second Language

My little classroom of international students rocked along nicely for the first few weeks. The boys and Noah worked hard at learning English, and I studied several hours every evening to prepare for the next day’s lesson. Aside from mothering (or more appropriately, herding) toddlers, it was the hardest job I’d ever had.

Early in the first semester, I happened across Frank McCourt’s Teacher Man, the book he published following his bestseller Angela’s Ashes. In an early chapter, he describes some of the teaching methods he used as a young teacher.  One was a writing prompt that instructed his students to pretend they were Adam and Eve and to write an excuse note to God.

The next day in class, I announced that we were going to write impromptu essays as practice for the essay section on the SAT. The assignment, I explained, was to pretend they were Adam and Eve and write an excuse note to God explaining why they had eaten the apple.

The boys and Noah each stood and read their essays aloud to the class. Jakub from Poland gave a clever excuse that certainly originated from his childhood. He said, “The apple fell off the tree, and we’re not supposed to waste food.” Aleks’ excuse read, “I had too much vodka the night before and needed something on my stomach.” Like Jakub’s, his excuse was obviously rooted in his European upbringing, but it made me a little nervous since this was, after all, a Christian school.

But then my Lithuanian boy, Petras, brought down the house. He stood and without batting an eye read, “Eve told me I wouldn’t get no pussy if I didn’t eat that apple.”

For some reason, I think Frank McCourt would have loved it. Petras went on to play Division 1 basketball at the University of Hawaii.  He graduated this past May, and last week, he signed a contract to play pro basketball for Lietuvos Rytas, the top team in Lithuania.   The boy who boarded a plane bound for Atlanta, Georgia, alone when he was 14 years old, not knowing a soul in the United States and not knowing a word of English, passed the SAT and graduated from college.  And now he’s a hotshot basketball player making enough money to take care of his mother, which is pretty much all he ever really wanted to do.

I feel fortunate to have played a small part in his incredible success.  For me, he’s proof that with some dedication and persistence and hard work, dreams really do come true.

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