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.