Thursday, November 04, 2010

Comparative Education

My grade seven science teacher reached for the yardstick and asked me to come to the front of the class. He told me to bend over his lab desk. I complied and he gave me a smart swat just above my ass-cheeks, then he told me to sit down again. I no longer remember what I did to earn it, but the welt took just over a week to fade away.

My grade eight English teacher took my friend down to a small room behind the office, where the teacher hit him with a leather strap 16 times. My friend later wondered if this “licking” mightn't have ended sooner if he'd burst into tears earlier.

If you were a stoner or a day-dreamer in my grade nine history class it was only a matter of time before you were hoisted to your feet by the ears. And while the historical record was attended to with some competency, this adult man applied a truly energetic imagination to his verbal cataloging of an individual student's personal failings. One afternoon he spoke fondly of the Flin-Flon high school teacher who used the staff toilet to water-board a 15-year-old Bobby Clarke. In the silence that followed, he gazed at the florescent lights overhead, this image now becoming only a vague memory of the glorious days when a teacher could, with impunity, deal any manner of physical abuse to his adolescent students.

All three of these guys went on to retire with full benefits. I thought of them this morning when I dropped my daughters off at school. My daughters are accumulating the usual wounds of adolescence — that acidic petri dish of Social Darwinism. But, so far as I can see, their teachers aren't actively contributing to the abuse. Instead it looks to me like they're doing as much as we enable them to do to shepherd these kids through to the other side.

It's progress of a sort.

Link: It Gets Better -- for ostracized teens of any sexuality.


Cowtown Pattie said...

My own mother, a public educator, was wont to employ mildly intimidating physical whaps to the top of the head of her inattentive or talkative students.

Good thing she doesn't teach now, she'd be sued into poverty or worse.

There were teachers and coaches during my public school years that went over the line administering physical punishment. I was never a recepient, but I heard the tales and saw the victims.

Sadly, a goodly portions of my peers were equally abused at home, though they didn't share that information readily.

It wasn't until my 30th high school reunion during the course of planning the event - some of us got reacquainted and given our maturing years, were more easily able to allow these dark memories to bubble up and be shared with each other.

It was a revelation to learn how different each classmates' home life was from the image we had perceived, and how little we knew of each other. Beyond the tough guy role-playing was a wounded individual who thought survival could be found in pretense and camouflage.

Quite cathartic, but as is typical of such events, we have lost contact with each other; almost as if the soul-bearing made us too naked to allow a normal ongoing renewed friendship.

Whisky Prajer said...

The household rule for at least one of my friends was, "If you get it at school, I'll be giving it to you when you get home." Fortunately for him, head-slaps and arm pinches did not count.

I remembered after posting this that I'd also had two band teachers who turned out to be sexual predators. The 70s sucked, to be sure.

Thirty years, eh? It certainly can take some time for the protective coloration to wear thin. Up until quite recently if you'd asked me what my overall experience had been of those years I would have answered quite positively. It was only as I watched my daughters begin their endurance run into adolescence that all these memories came flooding back. Bit of a mixed blessing, that.

DarkoV said...

Funny how the mind works and how memories are mellowed out like whisky in their aging barrels. Having made it through grammar school and high school (no junior high in those daze....)taught by nuns and Christian brothers, where bodily harm was, infortunately for some kids, almost a weekly occurence, it's easy now to reminisce about the brutal shenanigans bestowed onto us by members of the cloth.
Perhaps this was part and parcel with the whole thing of an all-seeing, all-knowing, vindictive Higher Being. If the Greater One were portrayed in a kinder light, I always wondered if the practioners/prosletizers of the Catholic Faith would have been handcuffed from their physical demonstration of His "Love". Which came first? The at times sadistic Greater Being or his minions armed with rulers, canes, and bamboo switches? Having been spared the rod on most occasions, I was guilty in the all too frequent distribution of punishment laid onto my classmates who I know would be treated as special cases these days but were, instead, treated as if they were thick-headed cattle. If there is a Baltimore Catechism justice to be rendered onto those "teachers" we were blessed with in the early years, are they now in some circle of Hell being continuously beaten with their own instruments of encouragement? Or, more likely, has all been forgiven for their "I did not know what I have done" acts" and they're blissfully rocking in chairs by HEaven's Door?

Hmm. .....ain't life a hoot!!??

...But onto your post. Those junior high years are the worst. Tearing down one's parents without a recognizable figure(s) to replace the love, attention, devotion, and care of the authority figure you're tearing down. They are truly awful years for the kid/adult and the parent....and the problem is, there's no way around it except to patiently deal with all of the impatience.
..Oh and keep her worn out from all of the ringette-ing! She'll be less tired (but never too tired) to protest against your lvoe and protection.

From the parental trenches,


Whisky Prajer said...

DV - These "instructors" obviously didn't take the bit about the millstone seriously. Part of me likes to think these offenders now reside in that place where, as a Dustin Hoffman character asserted, there are a lot of angry people with dentist's drills.

And thank you for the encouragement. There is a great deal to be said for physical exhaustion.