So, I did go back to High School, the book, that is, as I suggested I might on my post of Augst 27. One thing that David Owen was able to do, that Rebekah Nathan could not, was pass as a younger person. He would not have been able to do the work if he didn't look like a 17 year old. Nathan was in her 50s when she did her research and so could only pose as a 50 year old. She did not invent a story about herself, but few people asked anyway. Mostly she was just evasive, and did, in fact, "come out" to a few people when pressed. Owen never let on to anyone what he was really doing. He had some fear that his classmates might think he was a "narc" if they found out that he wasn't a real student. He doesn't go to any lengths to protect his identity once he leaves "Bingham" high though. His picture and biography are both on the book jacket. He just assumes no one in his class reads enough to come across his book. I even remember seeing him on the old teen talk show, Livewire, discussing his book back in the day.
Owen's passage about the school library does indicate that reading is not a big pastime at Bingham. "[S]tudents are not allowed inside the library unless they have a pass from an instructor certifying that they have an actual need to be among books.... Use of the library was unrestricted during the twenty minutes before school and the hour and thiry minutes after, but...I never saw another student, except two girls...who worked as assistant librarians [sic]." Students were not expected to use the library and rarely checked books out. In his semester at Bingham he only ever saw 4 students reading a book that was not assigned.
Sadly, his description of the school library could have been written by anyone I went to high school with in the 1980s. I wonder if anything has changed. In addition to the high school library, Woodlawn Sr. High was next door to the Woodlawn branch of the Baltimore County Public Library. I remember that students who were members of the honor society were given the privledge of going there during lunch hour or study hall. I guess the rest of us were considered too dumb to use the library. I remember one time sneaking across the school parking lot with my friend Stacey (that girl wasn't afraid of anything) to the public library to return a book, and thinking that it would be pretty ironic if I really got in trouble for going to the library.
David Owen's book was the first one this year that I actually found on the shelves of the Clement C. Maxwell library, the one in which I work.