Interview with Stephen Ames Berry

You're a science fiction writer. Why did you write "Marvey's Monkeys"?
I wrote "Marvey's ’Monkeys" to capture the essence of my time as a behavior teacher at Sarasota Florida's Oak Park School. It's drawn from life and if anything is understated. Written as an autobiography it wouldn't have been believed. I wrote it for my students, who can't speak for themselves. I wrote it as the pseudonymous JJ Jolly while teaching so as not to get fired until I was ready to be fired.
Before Oak Park School, I worked at Harvard. "Monkeys" is the first part of a novel in progress that’s done in first draft and is finally slipping out of stasis.
Oak Park School’s long served as affluent Sarasota warehouse for kids it deems troublemakers, which Sarasota then recasts as Special Needs students. It’s a form of social control that has nothing to do with education and everything to do with racism and class prejudice. My rare student like Dee was an outlier, exiled from an upscale school like Rialto High after a lifetime’s abuse, burning with a cold rage and sustained by an unyielding personal integrity. And drop-dead brilliant.
It was a horrible job, that 9 year teaching job. And the best job I ever had—took down some sadistic staff, outed Sarasota’s institutional racism and saved a kid’s life. Which he then turned around. You can’t do that at Harvard.
Published 2016-04-23.
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