Thursday, January 04, 2007

Academic Tyrrany

I was reading Slaghammers latest post, and I started to reply with a little anecdote, and it got kinda lengthy so I decided to make a post of it. He was writing about a really lovely time he'd had in the sixth grade with a psychotic principle (are there any other kind?) and it reminded me of a similar event from my youth.

When I was about that age, I had this terrible little crippled man as a vice-principle. True to my character, I never gave him a shred of credit or respect (no, I didn't mock his handicapped condition- just the things he said and did). Being that I was about 6' tall in the sixth grade, he wasn't initially willing to deal with me, and I was afforded a great deal of slack. This well finally ran dry and he lost his stack with me one day and dragged me to his office whereupon he called my mother. At work. Really a bad move. It apparently never occured to him that these attitude things might have a genetic element, and that I might be a dilution of the source. At the time, my mother was working in a blood bank doing type matching for surgeries or some literally "life and death" sort of work. Gimpy called her and proceeded to deliver an oratory about my maladjusted and harmful disposition. It really wasn't a half-bad rant (trust me, I would know), and my mother took it all in quietly (apparently working while listening) and this encouraged him to keep it rolling. There are lots of people who like to hear themselves gas on, and I think this guy was their leader. I bore witness to this rambling oratory for maybe ten minutes or so, and then it happened- he paused.

That's when she got a word in edgewise. Oops. Know this- not only was I raised with tales of disgust and trauma from the medical examiners office while the family ate dinner, but my mother could make a sailor blush when it comes to delivering a profanity laiden dressing down. This little crippled man had no idea what he'd invited upon himself. Surely he thought that I was ashamed of myself and embarassed to be in his office while he harrangued my mother on the phone. Surely she was a housefrau with a demure civility that would kowtow to his eminently educated and poorly thought out views on education (and, for the record, to date the only teacher or academic administrator I've agreed with about the institutions of academia has been John Taylor Gatto). Well, all of us make mistakes- but maybe none so big.

He didn't have a speakerphone, but once she began he didn't need one. The color left his face. He had been reclining, he had been enjoying the scenery while speaking. He now sat as erect as his twisted torso permitted. The knuckles of the hand holding the phone went taught and white. I could hear her too, but as I had been on the receiving end of her wrath so often before, I had none of the sphincter-puckering distress he was showing. Sort of like being acclimated to mustard gas. I watched with some measure of satisfaction as my mom turned this little tyrant into a stammering panicy nancy boy.

While I couldn't hear it word for word, the parts I heard clearly where priceless. At one point this gimpy vice principle said something that I expect a lot of teachers and administrators feel, but probably have the sense not to say out loud in front of people who can actually think- he said that the job of the school was to "socialize" the students. Not even that this was AMONG the jobs of the school, but that this was THE job of the school. Oh, that's gonna leave a mark...

She shouted "Listen you dumb little pissant, the job of the schools is not to 'socialize' the students. The job of the schools is to FUCKING EDUCATE THEM!" At this point he was holding the phone about a foot from his ear and this sentence could probably be heard by passersby on the other side of his closed door. There was more of course- this was back in the era of political equal time, and my mom was hell bent on matching his speaking time, but with more colorful lingo. I heard her call him a "little Hitler", which was prescient since she had no idea that he was so little. She explained in vivid terms that while he was gassing on, she was doing something productive (with the blood matching. This was often a hasty deal, since she was working for a place that took in lots of trauma cases, and frequently the speed in which she did her work made a difference in whether or not someone lived or died). She made some not-so-veiled threats about what would happen should HE ever need blood, and suggested that if he wanted to help society, he should kill himslef in a way that preserved his organs for someone more deserving.

By the time it was all over, he hung up the phone and stared at it for a moment in silence. Then he realized I was still there, smirk intact. He defeatedly said I could go, and prick that I am, I waited for him to say it again like I didn't hear him. I expected him to shout at me, or at least show a little rage, but he had none- he was completely defeated. He again said I could go in almost a whisper. I'm not the sort to kick folks when they are down, so I left. I remember being surprised at how he had no fight left in him, and in that sense this was a formative moment. My impression of will- that is to say the will of individual people, is framed by that day. It is now my belief that most people (particularly those who bark the loudest with indignant rage) are paper tigers. You push back against these people and they fold. Rarely you'll enounter people who are loud and indignant and they also are nuts. Being able to distinguish between these two types is critical.

That's what I learned in sixth grade. Oh yeah- that's also when I discovered pot.


Blogger Jazz said...

Wow, I wish I had your mom. Would she adopt me d'you think?

1:19 PM  
Blogger slaghammer said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:31 PM  
Blogger slaghammer said...

By the time I was in high school, the tables had turned to a degree where the teachers were no longer interested in most forms of discipline or structure. Other than drawing the line at violence and other blatant safety violations, we the students were left to our own devices. The devices that I came up with were extremely detrimental to a successful educational experience. Lucky for me, I didn’t need what that particular school had to offer by that point, so we parted company none the worse for wear.

1:33 PM  
Blogger Hammer said...

My mother believed every little hitler that called her and said I was no good and had various psychological defects that they had no clinical expertise to diagnose.

2:14 PM  
Blogger That Guy said...

I love your mom, she's just like mine.

Although not nearly as funny, my mother reamed a vice principal and attendance ladies at my highschool for not marking me approved absent when she called in, they cited she sounded like my girlfriend and felt it was justified.

oddly enough they did approve when my father called in, however my Mother never remembered him ever saying he called me in sick... I love having a deep voice :)

3:27 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

Six feet tall in the sixth grade?? That must have been pretty scarey for your teachers, because, really, physical intimidation is the primary means of control in a middle school classroom.

6:14 PM  
Blogger Schmoopie said...

It is princiPAL because "he's your pal." One of the many spelling "memory hooks" I learned in school. I was such a good little girl and never caused any trouble. If I knew then what I know now, I'd have had more fun.

6:42 PM  
Blogger Stucco said...

Jazz- at some point I'll write of some of the myriad downsides that go along with being related to her. It's not the sort of thing tht you'd necessarily wish for.

Slag- by high school it was the same for me. Sixth grade however is/was middle school where I matriculated and at that stage they thought they were in charge. Quaint.

Hammer- dunno what to say about that, other than our mothers may be spectral opposites. I could probably kill a whole bunch of people, animals, species, whatever, and she'd still think I was the bees knees. Most moms are this way I think. It's probably for the best. Mine was just a bit "saltier" than the average. By a mile. Heh.

TG- for a challenge, you should have tried calling in as your father with helium.

Jill- it was all glamor I tell you- 6 feet of raging hormones, spastic and senseless behavior, and bad haircuts. The girls sensed danger and fled from me. In retrospect, this was probably sensible. Makes me wonder what the hell Schmoopie is/was ever thinking regarding me. She never even pressed charges!

Schmoop- he was no ones pal, trust me.

8:09 PM  
Blogger Nancy Dancehall said...

"these attitude things might have a genetic element, and that I might be a dilution of the source."


I wish MY mom would have my back. Go read my story....

10:05 PM  
Blogger Judith said...

Your mom and my mom are cut from the same cloth, like a lioness with her cubs when she formed her own opinion on the truth and validity of any scrapes I got into with school administration. She could flay teachers with a couple of sentences and still have her dignity and get her point across and in the same breath make the teacher in question reconsider their vocation.. i didnt get into many but when I did I was justified and thats when mom stepped in. Where would we be without these good women LOL

1:55 PM  
Blogger Nancy Dancehall said...

P.S. For some reason, O can't post to your site. Anyway, he LOVES that story -- always has.

4:38 PM  
Blogger Scott from Oregon said...

My sixth grade principle was the coolest guy in the whole world. Instead of giving you the short and curly here, I think I shall give him the verbosity I think he deserved.

7:23 PM  
Blogger Cheesy said...

LOL I adore your Mom... having 5 kids of my own.. and alot of those years I had to wing it on my own...I became known at our little country schools as,,"oh oh here she comes" Once I yelled at the first grade teacher of the twins... due to the fact my boy twin had exposed himself in class,,, but hell she is the one who asked him "whats a talliwhacker?" [The answer a 6 yo gave to a reading comp excersize].. long story short... she didnt ask him what he meant if she didnt understand an answer lol. Sometimes parents just have to teach the teachers.

10:22 PM  
Blogger Vulgar Wizard said...

NANCY BOY!!!!! hehehehe

3:18 PM  

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