Saturday, June 16, 2012

Graduation Affectation

Yesterday was graduation day at the rather nice-spirited school to which I was assigned for my last day until school resumes in August or until I take up string collecting.  The 5th/6th combo teacher had to be gone for some reason so, as her note to me said in slightly apologetic tones, "Your main job today will be crowd control as you'll be engaged with two other classes in "Float Up"--Root beer floats for the good kids--prize relay races, yearbook signing . . . and the last hour is yours to fill up as you please."

Earlier that morning in the Mission breakfast breezeway some cursed son of a jackal felon with meth holes burned in his already under-sized brain deliberately stomped on my outstretched leg as I sat on the ass-freezing floor reading--along with a few others-- instead of observing the normal etiquette of stepping over and moving into his own spot.  He really hurt me.  My shin feels splintered.   

Instead of  apologizing, he started doing an all-too-common hyena on hind legs laugh interspersed with ejaculations like, "Did you see that?  Fucked him up! Hee, hee, heh heh heh, heh, hee, hee!  Fucked him up.  Stupid fuck!"  Then he lit up a cigarette. (Lately, the Mission has been stunningly lax about formerly iron-clad rules; this means we're scheduled for a comically stern crack-down, then another eruption of even more flagrant and creative rule-flouting).

A few fellows came to my defense: "What's the matter with you?Step over!  That's what's you're supposed to do!"  But it didn't matter much, and I just sat there and took it, rubbing my leg.

Hee, Hee, Hee!"  A few other jackals and hyenas and weasels joined in: "Fucked him up, way to go!"  

I could have challenged the brute after breakfast outside the gate on the street, but seriously, the world and the system are going to chew him up in a few--very few--years time. He'll end up with some mutated form of AIDs and a druggy brain disorder that makes him unable to tell left from right or eat anything but strained peas and beets.  

 So I spent 5th/6th last day graduation or whatever it was limping and grimacing and getting plenty of unearned sympathy from girls who had me sign their yearbooks  (The yearbooks, by the way, were just stapled together packets of binder paper with stiff red construction paper covers and celebrity stickers).   So the girls, who are naturally affectionate, shed many tears, and gave trembly hugs and generally had a wail-fest while the boys got signatures and tried to look cool and do homie rapper stomp and brag stuff regardless of race.  But here's the question:  how much of this is affectation?  And why is that important?  

Now, here's something everyone knows, but mustn't dare say in the faculty lounge:  Most kids's education stops at 4th grade, no matter what anyone does or says or prays,  and that's one big reason why the the last two or three generations of high-school age students are about as prepared as sloths to rob Fort Knox  as they are for the 9th grade and why "community" college students can't read or write.  I know this because I spent 25 years trying to teach people from age 18 to 85 how to write, and every colleague I taught with knows, even if they won't admit it, that the success rate is about 3.2 percent. 

In addition every teacher knows after the first 2 to 3 weeks of class exactly who the A students are, who the nice B students are, who will remain stuck at C level no matter how much effort is expended, and who will sink in the D/F mire. (Don't tell me true story of Billy the sullen F student who rose to National Magnetron Mondo Scholar because his teacher (played by Lindsay Lohan in her comeback role) never gave up and discerned the genius within.  Exceptions prove the rule, yadda, yadda, yadda. 

Earlier I wrote that it's the parents' fault, and it largely is, but even after 60 years of "media theory" and its mostly ponderous, sometimes spritely and brilliant analysis of what mediating technology does to kid's brains, we're still squalling infants with appalling rashes when it comes to figuring out what the bloody hell went wrong with education.

Now how do we pull together hyenas and jackels and weasels on their hind legs stomping on my shin with 5th and 6th grade kids performing and adopting personas they mostly got from TV, a weird prep ritual to enter a societal tomb of Gorgon and Medusa frozen people (think Housewives) hell-bent on living in a 24/7 "reality" show or, especially in the case of the boys, a career in prison.  

Seriously, boys come up to me all the time in their Kidz Korner Gangsta Gimme All the Candy in Yo Bag or I Cap Yo ASS Costumes and brag . . . BRAG!  about how tough they're going to be in prison and how they're going to have the best crew.  Bipedal hyenas and jackals in the making, and we've got to do something about it that doesn't involve TV sociologists or Oprah, for God's sake! The girls don't want to go to prison quite so much, but more of them than you might care to think about will kill their own babies, even the ones who get good jobs or think they can sing or dance. 

What to do, what to do?  I'm going to be doing some hard thinking and reading and watching in the next 6 months.  I've got to read more about child brain development, genetic expression, evolution and economics.  Mind you, I care about the kids, but I'm not trying to solve the problem. 

Here's how my day ended:  I stopped outside the office prior to turning in my keys and daily report to fill my water bottle from a long, low white fountain with six spigots activated by those big silver buttons you've seen--about the size of a casino chip or so.  A solumn kid in glasses and a Family Guy shirt standing next to me pointed to each water button in turn and said  "That one's cyanide, that one's arsenic, that one's strychnine, that one's a mixture of meth by-products, that one's hemlock, and that one's municipal water.  He paused and so did I.  "The problem is," he continued, "they change them all the time.  So the question is, do you feel lucky?"

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