This was Keith’s discovery. I remember it well: one day, he sat down in first bell and just asked me, “Is this a real school?” He had determined that it isn’t. The first and best tip-off is that it doesn’t even call itself a school. Up until my junior year, we had a wooden sign out front that animatedly proclaimed, FINNEYTOWN HIGH SCHOOL. Then they renamed the school to “Finneytown Secondary Campus” and received a new sign: it’s stone and has engraved (in Times New Roman, small, and aligned to the left, not centered as it should be) Finneytown Secondary Campus, and, below that and almost the same size, Gift of the Class of 2005. it’s an exceedingly disheartening and half-assed sign. Another clue is that the State of Ohio rated us “effective”, not “excellent”. So that means I’m learning effectively. That explains why Mrs Otten was loath to teach the class the correct way to solve the phone number problem last year. And why, the day before exams started last month and Miss Miller was doing review, she gave in to the class’s clamor and let us all play Heads Up, Seven Up. If this were a real school, nobody in high school would have wanted to do that, and the teacher wouldn’t have let them anyhow. Besides these rather major things, there are subtle clues all over that Finneytown isn’t a real school. When Keith and I find ourselves wondering why something in Finneytown is, the answer is usually that it’s not a real school. For example, at lunch Keith asked me, “Why does that clock say 8:24?” I told him, “Because this isn’t a real school.” Why did Mr Crawley mark me wrong on a question for which there was no correct answer? He told the class it was because, if none of the answers seems quite right, you should pick the term that’s most related to the issue raised in the question, even if it’s wrong. That is to say, if the question is “2+4=?” and the choices are “dasanki”, “Massachusetts”, “13”, and “efflorescence”, the correct answer is 13. Keith and I quickly realized that the real reason I got the question marked wrong was that Finneytown isn’t a real school, and, additionally, Mr Crawley isn’t a real teacher. He’s just a monitor who makes sure we all do psychology-related sorts of things. Most of the teachers at Finneytown are actually monitors, in fact, excepting only Dr White, Mr Volz, and Mr Rahn. Mr Rahn still isn’t a real teacher, though, but more of a computerized correspondence course. In a real school, the English teacher wouldn’t spend twenty minutes one day talking about her cats, and she would actually read the journal entries she makes us write in our composition books (I believe she has yet to open one of them). Our school lunches are obviously not real–hot wings drowning in vinegar, chicken patties made bulkier with rubber, and sandwiches with one slice of meat. Our mascot is the Wildcat, which isn’t even a real animal. Coming up with it required zero thought; the person whose job it was clearly had heard of some other team named the Wildcats and copied off of them. The Wildcat logo we have everywhere is just a ripped-off version of the UK Wildcat, and it’s been copied so many times by such inexpert artists that it no longer even has a nose. We’ve made some other discoveries, too. For example, the sidewalks at Finneytown Secondary Campus aren’t really paved with concrete, but with children’s broken dreams. In the bathroom, Keith regarded the sink water and said, “You know this isn’t a real school; that’s not really water, it’s the saliva of all the students.” Then he made a disgusted face and said, “Ouhww!” thus becoming the first person I know to gross himself out. We assume that on May 31st, we won’t actually graduate; instead of a diploma we’ll just receive a blank piece of paper plus an unemployment form. Since realizing this, we’ve taken a pretty dim view of our education in general, and we’re kind of depressed that we haven’t actually been going to school all these years. It’s also sort of freeing, though, to be enlightened while everyone else still has all this school spirit and thinks they’re getting a real education. That doesn’t make up for it, of course.