What I REALLY Learned In School!

 “Psychopathic programming is incapable of change. It lacks moral dimension or ethical mind beyond the pragmatic. Institutional morality is always public opinion…”(John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education)

 My visit and spanking in the principal’s office led to a crisis in my family. My father had talked to my fourth grade teacher, and had smiled too much in my mother’s estimation. He had asked my teacher to call and visit any time, and he would be willing to work with her to whatever degree necessary for my benefit.

 While he publicly shook his head at my terrible actions and scolded me before the principal, the teacher, and my mother, he privately told me “Whatever you’re doing, keep it up”.

 The crisis occurred when my mother overheard him saying it.

 In fact, My parents had moved into a community located between two school districts. on the one side was the “city” school I had been attending, and on the other was the “country” school which my older brother had attended the year before I was to start to school.

 My older brother, actually my half brother from my mother’s first marriage, was much like his father, friendly, sociable, well liked, and eager to please his teachers in every way. It never occurred to him to disobey in any way, and he liked being the teacher’s pet.

 On his second day at the country school, he came home begging my parents to let him go back to the city school where he had started. “Please!” he begged, “They’re big and mean, and they beat me up all the time!”

 He returned to his former school, and was contented and obedient. Since I was quiet like my father, and also extremely shy, my parents figured I wouldn’t have a chance in a school like that. If my brother couldn’t make friends, I was doomed.

 The crisis with my fourth grade teacher, however, caused my mother to decide that I should change to the country school, where the teachers weren’t so pretty and where I might get the crap beat out of me enough to make me want to return to my former school also.

 Mid-year in the fourth grade, I began attending the country school, which was a shock to say the least. I discovered that the students in this school had priorities that did not include education. Many of them simply were called out of school for several days to help with planting, harvesting, wood cutting or land clearing, after which they were allowed to go to school.

 As a result, there were fourteen year old kids in the fourth grade, healthy farmworking kids who stood nearly six feet tall, weighed nearly two hundred pounds, and had hair on their chests nearly an inch long.

 The male students were even larger.

 “…you discover that the strongest inmates at an asylum and the asylum’s management have a bond; they need each other”.(Taylor, ibid)

 The first words I heard from one of those large kids was “What you lookin’ at, fool?”


 “You callin’ me nothin’?”


 he nodded his head, walked a step or two, thought better of it, and returned to pick me up and place me carefully in the rest room urinal, which was yellow stained.

 My teacher was not nearly as pretty as my “city” teacher. In fact, she was in her late forties and had never been married.  Classes consisted mostly of general discussions, which were basically stories told by the students about their experiences on the farm, most of which were great exaggerations of heroism, which the larger kids applauded.

 I realized quickly that the whole system was organized around the idea of pleasing those very large kids, who raised their hand in class only to remind the teacher that it was time for recess, and they should have their usual ten minutes to put away their books, which they never brought anyway.

 Recess generally lasted from eleven AM to Twelve, after which we took an hour break for lunch, and then resumed from two PM until the end of class, after which we eagerly rode the bus home.

 We played softball, and I was approached by Willie Shuford, easily the largest and ugliest of the big kids. He was both big and ugly enough to scare the shit out of me, which he did.  He walked up to me, sniffed, and said, “You smell like piss. Can you play worth a damn?”


 I’m gonna put you at shortstop, and you’d better stop every damn ball that comes at you. Do you understand?”

 “Yes, sir”.

 I did okay until the clean-up batter for the other team batted. He looked at me and smiled. The first pitch came screaming at me almost faster than I could move. remembering what Willie told me, and having no need for future urinal baths, I managed to stop the ball with my groin, after which I was allowed to stand on the sideline, amidst much laughter and jeers. My vocabulary increased that day, as I learned such words as “pussy boy” and “queer bait”.

 Being a wimpy assed city boy, I got my butt kicked on a regular basis, but unlike my older brother, I studied their techniques. I watched how they moved, and I studied their weaknesses, which I was not able to exploit, since they would simply pick me up with one hand and slap me with the other. The boys were even worse.

 I did get better at softball, and I discovered an advantage. I could run like hell, and as long as I wasn’t cornered, they couldn’t touch me. I also used my speed in base running to steal bases, and I learned that I could play outfield and do some really nice over-the-shoulder catches of outfield flies.

 In fact, due to my quickness, mostly developed from fear, I became a very good athlete. Urinal baths gradually declined, and I even made a few friends. I was also able to heckle the big kids and outrun them, but in class I was cornered. The teacher tended to ignore such lessons, as I had embarrassed her with a remark when I first came to the new school.

 One of the students said his arm was busted”, which she said she doubted, but the word was “broken” not “busted” and there was no such word as “busted”, it was “burst”.

 I had to add then that the word “bust” referred to a woman’s breasts, and since she was an old maid, her face turned deep crimson. There was much laughter from the bigger kids, who appreciated my connection in such matters.

 What I enjoyed most about this school was that it was based on native cunning among children, and not on artificial distinctions like academics. I also learned that life wasn’t really fair. You just adapted and made of it what you can.

 I finished the fourth grade, and my parents moved nearer the old “city” school, where I just happened to get the sister of my old country school teacher, both of whom had never been married.

 In the city school, the administration dominated. The children had been well programmed, by that time, to simply do their assignments, turn in their work, and wait for grades. I not only had not changed,  but I had become stronger, faster, a far better athlete, and not only disrupted classes, but was able to simply dominate. School children began to “wake up” and bedlam gradually ensued.

 Locked in one classroom, with constant contact among the same students, I was able to establish a hierarchical rebellion. From an also-ran at the country school, I was now a leader, more confident, and still possessed of the quick mind that could read an entire textbook in advance and never pick it up again, while maintaining good grades.

 Those teachers who thought I was a problem child before, now thought I was Satan’s spawn. It was wonderful!

 By the sixth grade, however, they neutralized my strategy by breaking up classes into one hour sessions, like high school, where you study science for an hour, then the bell rings, and you move in Pavlovian fashion to the next class of math, or PE, or whatever, and there is no chance for the development of rebellious hierarchy.

 Fortunately, by the seventh grade, my parents moved yet again, back to the country school, where one of the big boys started give me the customary urinal bath. I stopped him by telling him I would personally castrate him if he even touched me. It stopped him in his tracks, mostly because he didn’t know what “castrate” meant.

 It did have the effect of making him warn the other kids to watch me. I was a smartass. The brass balls these kids had given me from earlier years so startled them that I was able to establish my own hierarchy while they were still in shock. By the eighth grade, I ruled. Girls walked around with my name on their notebooks.

 By the ninth grade, however, classes were again broken up, and I was a mere statistic.

 illegitimus non carborundum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

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