Volume 75, Number 14 | August 24 - 30, 2005

Notebook

School: Pledge, teachers, decimals; what a nightmare


By Wilson

Be it public or private (and home-schooling sounds especially scary), school has always reminded me of a mental institution (think Willowbrook). For several years (due to an insane person’s career path), I had to adjust to a wild assortment of different schools and their policies on new math vs. old, print vs. cursive, and one kooky ’60s concept after another. Even my first day of kindergarten was traumatic. As you may note, the name Wilson usually comes last in an alphabetic roll call. That morning, each and every child before me was successfully greeted by name (practically the one and only thing they’re sure of at that age). But the only name I knew at the time was my nickname, which was in no way similar to my legal first name (a word composed of three syllables instead of two, containing entirely different consonants and vowels). And when the teacher called my “legal” name, not my nickname, and I didn’t respond, the monster with ugly glasses, snarly gray hair and wicked bad breath kept yelling it into my face, berating me to rebellion, then tears and generic horror. It sounded like she was speaking Klingon with a Nazi accent.

That bitch, whipped, naked and covered in crap, should have been sent to Willowbrook for child abuse.…

Years later, I got sent to the principal’s office for a parent-teacher confrontation because I wouldn’t salute the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the lengthy/tedious “Star-Spangled Banner.” It was 1968; Vietnam was full blown, there were tons of protests and these imbeciles thought they had a young radical/hippie on their hands. But the truth of the matter was, I was bored! Sick and tired of starting the day with a monotonous and pointless exercise that made me feel like one of the zombies in “Night of the Living Dead.” No way was I old or smart enough to care about politics; I just wanted to watch TV and play outside. Plus, I couldn’t stand my ignorant, ancient, creepy teacher — who told my parents I was aggressive, as opposed to assertive. Oh, I guess that’s why I excelled at sports as a child and in business as an adult. How I wish I knew then what I know now.

America is presently involved in yet another illogical/irrational war, but for this one, refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance in school has an entirely different/twisted meaning. (Check out “Divided by God: America’s Church-State Problem and What We Should Do About It,” by Noah Feldman.)

School is scary. The place is like a prison/the cops and guards have guns. Classrooms are often overcrowded, while teachers are abused at every level (by students, parents, administrators, unions, politicians, lawyers, the mayor). Children need door-to-door escorts to avoid getting kidnaped, robbed or molested, and their backpacks (not to mention bodies) have never been more heavy, or subject to inspection. Just singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which contains the word “bomb,” could get some “pack-toting tot” into trouble! To this day, I still have nightmares about attendance — a recurring dream about having missed (skipped or forgot about) a class for an entire year, and then I have to go back (to either high school or college). Confused and upset, I plead with the authorities, “But I’ve already been in the workforce for years!”

The most important thing I learned in school was: if it isn’t a bathrobe, it usually means trouble, with a capital “T.” Also, “Back to School” is not just a funny Rodney Dangerfield movie; for students young and old (and anyone with half a brain), it can be a truly hazardous time of the year. August is over. Thank God, the mental health professionals are back. My former shrink, a blind woman who I’m positive I made go deaf, said that according to the American Psychiatric Association, all religion is a form of mental illness/delusional thinking. Up to that point, I just thought it caused war, neurosis and sexism. If only I had a proper education and learned this lesson years ago.…

A cross-section of teacher commentary taken from report cards in junior high school:

Government: Is inattentive plus does not prepare for classes. The marks reflect the attitude.

Literature: Failing but could Pass if work improves. Homework consistently not done, inattentive to instruction, no evident interest, or effort.

Arithmetic: Is trying, but has practically no knowledge of decimals.

Composition: Tends to be very careless and scatterbrained, but has recently shown signs of settling down to work.

French: Missed many classes. Rarely came to me for help. In class, was often drawing or reading magazines. Work was very erratic in nature; student does not take it seriously.

Earth Science: Has artistic interests and capabilities. Is highly interested and appears to have a fair background in the subject. Does good work on assignments and shows care and considerably ingenuity. Progress is satisfactory.

Go figure?

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