Humor Makes the School Go Round

It has been said that humor originates from pain and suffering, and Welcome to High School—A View from the Trenches by David James Smith is a collection of very funny cartoons that certainly illustrates that point. Add to pain and suffering: boredom, apathy, frustration, and futility, and what you get is American public education at the high school level.

It’s unlikely that the cartoonist—who is both an artist and a teacher—thinks that the high school scene is as dark and useless as it sometimes seems in these biting cartoons. But that’s the function of humor, and particularly of caricature: to point out the most ridiculous and lamentable aspects of a situation and exaggerate them for our amusement and education.

And so in Welcome to High School we have a substitute teacher being crucified. Here’s a high school boy making out with a girl in one scene and then calling her a bitch when talking to his friends in the next. School facilities look like a prison in one cartoon and like an invalid covered in band-aids in another. Growth is stunted by peer pressure; counselors don’t have a clue; and the faculty lounge looks like the waiting room from hell. The antagonism between teachers and students is a recurring theme, as is the oppression of teachers by administrators.

Welcome to High School is the author’s reaction and expression of his and his colleagues’ daily experiences: the humanity, perplexities, and frustrations that make secondary education both an ordeal and a reward. And Welcome to High School is David Smith’s attempt to come to terms with the apparent disparity between the outlook and expectations of educational institutions and that of the students. These are serious topics, yes, but what better way to tackle them? Humor and art make daunting topics lighter and more accessible. They can also create awareness and move us to action.

David James Smith has been a high school art teacher for nearly thirty years. He received a PEN Syndicated Fiction Project Award in 1985. He is a member of the Gold Coast Watercolor Society and the Buenaventura Art Association. He has had many one-man shows and group shows throughout Southern California. This is his first collection of drawings. He lives, paints, and teaches in Oxnard, California.


Welcome to High School
A View From the Trenches
David James Smith

ISBN 1-56474-391-8
80 pages, paperback, $10.00

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