on challenging authority

It was the end of the first grading period, 5th grade, 1971. Our report cards were neatly piled on Miss Cook’s desk, waiting to be distributed. It was almost time for the bell to ring to dismiss us for the day, and we were getting antsy, squirming in our seats, when the school principal walked into our classroom, wooden paddle in hand.

The principal always travelled the halls carrying his trusty “board of education” and this day was no exception. He sauntered in, sidled up to Miss Cook’s desk, and began rifling through the stack of report cards. Singling out two male students, he began to read their grades out loud to the class. And their grades were not good.

 As if that wasn’t humiliating enough, he then called both of them up to the front and had them stand next to him, facing the rest of us. He began to verbally berate them both. At one point, paddle in hand, he said “What’s the MATTER with you two?” and flicked the paddle toward the student standing closest to him. He was a stocky boy. The paddle struck him squarely in the stomach. The boy flinched, then straightened back up, continuing to face the class, his lower lip quivering as he tried not to cry. The principal continued: “Don’t you want to grow up to be President of the United States?” Then he began to wax poetic about the greatness of our commanders-in-chief, and listing them in reverse order starting with Nixon (remember, this is pre-Watergate): Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Truman, Roosevelt…

Up went my little hand. “Mr. T, didn’t you skip President Eisenhower?”

“Now you listen here, little lady…..”

Miss Cook tapped him gently on the arm.

“Mr. T, I believe she’s correct on that.”

Finally, we were saved, literally, by the bell.

I honestly can’t remember what time of day the principal came into our classroom. Something, besides me, interrupted him and ceased his tirade, and his totally uncalled for reading of our grades to the class. This man was a first-class, 100% dyed in the wool nut job. Totally. He was scary. I knew he was a little weird, but I’m not sure I fully understood the situation. I thought that, if he was going to recite the presidents to us, he should do it right.

I expect no less from our authorities now. From those who want me to put my trust in them to lead our country into the future. Tell me the truth. I might already know that what they’re saying is true, or not. And if I don’t, I have this wonderful tool called the Internet to help me discern.

That tool, plus the mind God gave me.

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7 responses to “on challenging authority

  1. Wow. On the off chance that this won’t totally be lost on you (not everybody froths at the mouth over the Stephen King/Peter Straub pairing – reference The Talisman), in the immortal words of the probably not so imaginary but completely psychotic reverend sunlight gardener: All boys are bad. It’s axiomatic.

  2. The Talisman–that was a book!

    Yeah, boys are bad. But that principal was a monster. CG knows, even though she had moved on to better schooling by then. I left this place soon after this happened.

  3. This breaks my heart.

  4. I meant that the principal reminded me of Sunlight Gardener!

  5. Alecto: Yeah, I knew what you meant. But admit it, boys ARE bad. That’s why we love ’em.

    Annette: in hindsight, those were some scary times. Funny, his initials were B.S. Don’t you love it?

  6. “Better schooling” is somewhat imaginary. I moved on to where no one except other students intentionally hurt me. But the adults there (and in my home) were so much less than helpful. No one ever mentioned that anything at all had happened.

    Anyway, we did live through some nightmare times together. And it was really only because of Cielo I got out (because she told her mother which I never would have and her mother told my mother blah blah blah). But I don’t think it was just there, or just then. The techniques on how to force people into line just differ. Example recently to me when I wasn’t sufficiently in “line” with the radical Doddite unschoolers and so got bashed.

    And just look what people will do to Sarah Palin’s family.

    Oh, which, I’ll name the SOB — Birchell Stallard. I don’t actually remember how he spelled his first name though. My mother got elected to national PTA positions because of all that and STILL nothing changed. School is school and school is about power over and it is to prepare us for jobs which are also about power over and until we overthrow the order and live differently, it won’t matter.

    Cielo, your body overthrew it for you.

    I can just see you saying, “ummm, what about Eisenhower?” We still do that sort of thing, don’t we? That’s why we don’t do well in the order as it is.

  7. I agree our leaders should tell us the truth. Too bad they are so bad at it!

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