Wednesday, September 9

That's Done. Now Can We Please Get Back To The Business Of Keeping Students From Learning Anything About US History?

HOUSEKEEPING: one, my Poor Wife managed to escape the hoards of newly-minted Maoists, or whatever it was the President was creating yesterday, and made it home safely. Thanks for asking. Two, strange as it seems, I meant The Asphalt (one of the greatest, maybe the greatest, Noir) Jungle, not the switchblade soap opera Blackboard, which would seem to be more appropriate, though my classroom film was a crime caper, after all. I had meant it to evoke the absurdity of watching sham Hell's Kitchen proto-punks--imagine today's young audiences confronted by a crack-smoking Katrina and the Waves--before bicycling home to a street which had been carved through a working farm eighteen months earlier. They should have been warning us about precociously-breasted young nubiles who dated older hippie guys, since that's where the dope came from. In fact, they should have just warned us about precociously-breasted young nubiles, period.

Which, excuse the reverie, reminds me that I spent my final two years in The Chalkboard Mall stalked by a relentless Chemistry teacher/ amateur shamus who was--his interrogation subjects routinely informed me--absolutely convinced that I was the School Pusher. Dude, you coulda just asked me! Me and my no-account friends pooled our lunch money so we could buy the occasional $15 ozzie of weed the FBI Crime Lab couldn't have found any THC in. Of course, if he'd have really been interested in fighting crime he could have busted a hot car ring, half a dozen bootleggers, and god knows what else, but no.

And I was a good student. And I'd been in his class as a sophomore, where I was the only one paying attention, aside from the goody-two-shoes who sat immediately in front of his desk, and the Foreign Exchange student who cracked us up every time he said "Al-lu-MIN-ee-um". He never confronted me directly, but he gave me the eyeball two or three times a day, between classes, since my locker was directly opposite his classroom and he was really big on the whole hall monitoring routine.

We did have one little confrontation the spring of my junior year, which is the only example I can recall of actually living that fantasy where you go back to school in a sixteen-year-old's body, but with a mature mind prepared to give these Nazis what for. I had Physics right across the hall from him that year, and I was always the first one in the room. He strolled in one day and gave me the well-practiced Junior G-Man look.

"Doesn't your father ever make you get a haircut?" he asked.

"My father's dead," I spit back.

Actually, he's still kicking at 89. I'd stolen the line from my girlfriend, whose father was dead, having been whittled down by medical science over the previous couple years, and who had received a call a year after his demise, and four after his divorce from the home's adult resident, which was answered by his precociously-breasted nubile youngest daughter. The request to speak to Mr. Baughman was answered, as above, "No, he's dead," to which the woman, momentarily taken aback, sputtered, "Oh, I'm sorry. I'll call back later."

Anyway, a deep bow and a hearty secret teenaged reprobate handshake for the "about 100" students of Pendleton (IN) Heights High School who walked out of class yesterday to protest the school's refusal to let them watch the President's speech. For which, of course, they were all given Detention, the Lethal Injection of tiny minds, just so they all understood that artificial, uninformed, politically-motivated, television-buffoon-driven protests, real, imagined, or fabricated, would be given a full and friendly hearing by the school's administration, but that its students could just Shut Th' Fuck Up.

And here's the thing about all that Speech nonsense. I don't know what coverage was like on your local carnival of teleprompter misreading, but it couldn't have been any worse than mine. Solid fucking week of Speech coverage interlaced with H1N1 Panic. Controversy! It was like a condensed version of The Great Property Tax Revolt of Aught Seven. Night after night of verb-tense-challenged "parents" explaining why their personal political opposition to Barack Obama ought to be the guiding principle of all public instruction the next three years. Okay, "explaining" is too strong there.

The disgusting part was the rapidity, and apparent eagerness, with which local schools announced their decisions to block the thing. Y'know, it was your decision whether to show it. I didn't give a fuck one way or t'other, but the White Flight Doughnut counties around Indianapolis were dumping the thing faster'n a proposal to import toxic sludge from New York City. There wasn't even any pretense of honest examination, nor letting cooler heads decide, nor avoiding raw political manipulation. Hell, there wasn't any recourse to the school itself deciding how the school day would be spent. It was pure, placard-waving, Don't worry, we're not going to allow your children to be indoctrinated horseshit. The principal of Center Grove High School (Motto: A Five-Star Waste of Good Pastureland!), Greenwood, IN (Motto: The Cul-de-Sac-laden Crown Jewel of the "Everything South of US 40 is Dixie" District), Johnson County, where the Negro-hoard-fleeing Indianapolis whites who instinctively turned South ran to, told the local hairdos that she would preview the speech and edit it if necessary. Y'know, just he case he let an Ofay slip, or urged her young charges to give the crack cocaine a whirl, or mentioned decent medical care for all.

Could you just shut th' fuck up when you've every reason to? This is what colors my perceptions, Ken. Those people were not responding to the question of appropriateness of the bully pulpit interrupting the school day. If Zombie Ronald Reagan had asked to make a speech they'd have run out and bought new giant screens. They couldn't even acknowledge that they were bowing to political pressure without bothering to hear any other side. They couldn't even be bothered to leave the impression that school curriculum was their responsibility, not Glenn Beck's. It was, simply, a quick affirmation that whatever the nuttiest of wingnuts believes is legitimate in Republicanland.

And I like to think I at least consider how my own opinions color what I hear on the idiot box, but this is one of those times when it's damn near impossible to see any justification. The locals ran this stuff for a week. They never had any problem finding some "spokesman" for "concerned" "parents" to fill the time. But somehow I had to turn to the internets to learn that Reagan had delivered an overt stump speech with children as a backdrop. (Not that he ever really did anything else.) The entire issue was framed by the loudest screamers among the bunch who resoundingly lost the last election to this guy, including, they kept telling me at the time, Red State Indiana for the first time in 45 years. Controversy! And having helped see to it that urban legend and political underhandedness would rule the day in the Doughnut counties, the locals were reduced to finding a Marion county school to serve as an example of the Parents May Opt Their Children Out alternative, noting that at Pike Township's New Augusta Academy about 30 students out of 800-plus were excused. Thirty. It suggests that every last fucking one of their parents had been interviewed by local news in the preceding five days.


Anonymous said...

Yeah. I found myself in a box. I'm a journalism and rhetoric teacher--who else to show the speech? Only it fell over lunch, and there was this general sense of coolness, not to the speech itself but to the sense of dread, you know, Fortinbras is just passing through, just over the hill, it's cool, he probably won't swoop down and make your life miserable. But since one or two of Fortinbras' horde are equal to a battalion of normal folk, in terms of fan-meet-shit, well, it's better to let this one pass. Since, you know, it's the first day of school and we don't yet know who in our class is wingnut-spawn, just spoiling to flip-video something I say and make me famous on you-tube, the local equivalent of Van Jones or whatever his name was, impaled on the castle wall for some ambiguous off-hand statement.

Meanwhile just north of here two teachers made coordinated snide remarks about a gay kid--real '50's stuff--to amused snickers from their mental peers (that is, their students). Kid got a 25K settlement for the harassment and the teachers got three day's paid leave, or something like that--a slap on the air above the wrist. What's this country coming to, the wingnuts ask? President can urge students to do all the things conservatives used to urge students to do and get called bad names and opted-out by teabaggies, and some perfectly normal red-handed American teachers can't even bait a fag. Sheesh.


'cooddied'--best yet

Buttermilk Sky said...

I should have known better than to question the noir credentials of someone named Doghouse Riley.