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Back to School

Yesterday I heard of a young mother who came downstairs early in the morning to find her fifth-grade son dressed for school but flat on his back in the middle of the living room staring in despair at the ceiling.

MOM: “What on Earth do you think you’re doing?”

BOY: “I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t do it. I just can’t go to school anymore.”

We all know how that small strike ended. Management made an offer (“Go to school or else.”), and the union of one caved in with a few plaintive “But mom’s… “

I first thought that there was rough justice in that. After all, the thought of actually going on a ten-minute “I-won’t-go-to-school” strike never would have entered my ten-year-old mind. If it had I would not have heard the dreaded promise, “Wait until your father gets home.” No, I would have heard the thermonuclear announcement, “I’m calling your father at work and telling him to come home right now.” That one always alerted me that I had only one half-hour to get my affairs in order.

Today, after mulling the lie-down strike a little more, it seems to me there’s more than a little to be said on the side of the fifth-grader’s strike. After twenty years of schooling and more than thirty on the day shift, those early grades seem — looked at through society’s grubby glasses — to be an idyllic time. After all, weren’t they?

No real worries. No problems with the opposite or the same sex. No goals other than getting to Christmas break, Easter break or the long and endless summer. No money to make. No money, in fact, to speak of at all. All your expenses covered. No taxes. No sense of mortality. In short, the lost and golden land of childhood. We all think of it, once far removed from it, as some distant Edenic idyll.

School days, school days
Dear old golden rule days
Readin’ and ‘ritin‘ and ‘rithmetic
Taught to the tune of the hickory stick

But if we try and shift our point of view a bit, and if we try to remember all those things the haze of our twice-told childhood fairy-tales hides from us, we might see it — just a bit and just for an instant — from the point of view of the fifth-grade boy flat on his back in the living room staring at the ceiling in utter despair.

Here he lays. He’s been going to this job of his for as long as he can remember. Unlike my experience which didn’t start until kindergarten, today’s boy has probably been working in the education industry since age 3.

They started him out on basic blocks and why he shouldn’t nail somebody who took his cookie. Those are hard lessons. How to stack something up so it doesn’t collapse in a heap at the first shudder in the earth. How to “share” your very limited and very personal resources. Why you don’t just whack anyone who irritates you with the nearest blunt object.

These are basic lessons, and we forget how hard they are. Some of us don’t learn them at all. Those people are either in prison, assembling bombs, or CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Still, that’s your entry level position in the educational-industrial complex. It’s all downhill from there.

For years you get up at an ungodly hour and don’t even get a chance to read the paper. Plus, no coffee at all. Not. A. Drop.

You are then pushed out of your home and either driven to your “office-complex” by a cranky chauffeur with complete control over you, or you get to ride with a few dozen of your more-or-less peers with different ideas of hygiene and levels of intelligence in a shaking tin box with no seatbelts, driven by some of the least intelligent members of your community. I’d be a nervous wreck by the time I got to the office, I’ll tell you.

Once you do get to the office, your time to just goof off is extremely limited. No leisurely stints by the water cooler for you. No coffee cart with tasty pastries coming by after only an hour. Bladder issue? Raise your hand and get a note. Other than that you are never alone.

You get one break out in the dirt, with, I might add, still no coffee. A couple of hours later you get a quick hit of really bad food that is the same this Wednesday as it was last Wednesday. After that, it’s back to your office where they don’t even have a little cube for you, but slam you together with 15 to 30 other slaves to the clock in a room fit only for 10.

In some huge gesture to your youth, they let you out of this joint at 3 in the afternoon. They tell you it’s a “school day,” but if you’ve been up since 7 and out at three, that’s a full eight hours in my book.

Oh, and no chatting with your friends. Yes, you, pipe down. If not it’s off to the CEO’s antechamber for a quick and humiliating performance review. Daily if you don’t snap out of it. If you really don’t snap out of it, we’re calling your father AND your mother to come here from work right now.

Perhaps you get to enjoy the mastery of your skills? Don’t make me laugh. Master one thing and boom here comes another.

Comprehend fractions? That was so last week. Now do long division. Made a volcano that blew up on cue last week? Big deal. This week you are going to construct an Algonquin winter lodge diorama from scratch — and it better have plenty of cotton balls for snow.

One o’clock. Your project for this hour is the basic structure of the cell. Okay, two o’clock, everybody stand up and turn to the person next to them and say, “Hola, como se llama…”

Day in day out, week in week out, year in year out … you trudge off to this room crammed to the brim with bird’s nests, flash cards, trilobites, pilgrim hats, Indian headdresses, drawings and paintings in which the proportion of the head to the body is never right, but looks for all the world like an exhibit by demented Fauvists with no drawing skills whatsoever and a very garish color sense. Twice a day, everybody in this room is let out. Is it any wonder they run screaming into the sunshine?

You have no veto whatsoever over your co-workers, your working conditions, your hours, or your choice of when to do what tasks. Everyone does the same tasks at the same time for 55 minutes and then it is on to something new.

Did I mention the fact that you can’t quit? If you try to quit they send the Gestapo to your home and track you down and haul you back.

There is, however, judgment. Oh, the judgment. Constantly tested. Constantly graded. Constantly up for criticism with your single allowable plea being, “Guilty. But with an explanation.” It’s like an annual review every week with no raises, ever.

And nothing, nothing you do, is ever quite good enough, is it? Except for that four-eyes up in the front row who always gets it done perfectly. No mistakes ever. You know, the kid who will be pantsed and then smothered with 30 co-workers backpacks out behind the backstop one rainy afternoon.

By the fifth grade, you’ve been in this dead-end job for about seven years. If you’re lucky, your pay has gone from a dollar to ten dollars a week. Get straight A’s and you might get a bonus of one day at the local “Magic Kingdom.” Then it’s, “Okay, break’s over. Everybody back on their heads.”

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like one of the worst jobs in the world. In fact, the more I think about it the more I want to lie down with that kid in the middle of the living room and say, “I just can’t do it anymore either.”

It took me about 30 years to get to that point. I guess I’m not as smart as I was in the fifth grade. In fact, I’m sure of it.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • H August 16, 2018, 2:51 AM

    And, it’s about to get much worse. Just around the corner is the tyranny of high school cliques and the discovery that gurls have the power to make your life completely miserable in ways you will never master or understand.

  • ghostsniper August 16, 2018, 4:44 AM

    Eternal prison for many.
    Go to school for 12 years, pay for it for the rest of your life.
    democrats and republicans never break free
    they’ve been conditioned to the noose

  • Phillipa Crawford August 16, 2018, 5:14 AM

    Well that was funny, and depressing.

  • Fred August 16, 2018, 5:50 AM

    Can you imagine an entire society, a self proclaimed free people sending their children to compulsory government indoctrination centers all day, every day. I got out as soon as I could and never went back. Prison compounds don’t work for me. Pity really, they told me I was quite bright but they never made the connection to my refusal to comply. Such are socialists and other busy bodies everywhere. It’s been harder, of that I’m certain, without the government stamp of approval for my compliance but it’s been worth all the hard work and effort to educate myself instead.

    From the Dept. of Education on down, hanged from the neck until dead, every last one.

  • Larry Geiger August 16, 2018, 6:12 AM

    Well, you see, this child is bright. He’s going to go far. The reason is that he has somehow reasoned that there might be an alternative. Even if it’s just lying on the floor. This never occurred to me. It’s just what you did. Get up, eat breakfast, get on your bicycle and pedal madly to the schoolhouse.

    Only we had 3 recesses a day. Not a very progressive school. We had a library and I read through it in six years. They had food for lunch in the cafeteria that you didn’t have to prepare yourself. What a concept. Only thing that I would have changed would be cushions on those hard wooden seats. After lunch we pulled out our mats and took a nap. First and Second grades had naps every day. There was no kindergarten so we all started at first grade. Only Monica and Debbie could already the read the encyclopedia when they got there. They were so cool. See Dick run. See Jane and Spot. And no A/C. School in September in Florida was very languid.

  • Nunnya Bidnez, jr August 16, 2018, 7:02 AM

    …20 years of schoolin’ and they put you on the day shift..
    Look out kid, they keep it all hid…

  • Marica August 16, 2018, 7:43 AM

    And God forbid that Dad gets promoted– and transferred– and you get to be the New Kid. Five times.

  • pbird August 16, 2018, 9:17 AM

    Speaking of other kids and how passive they were…on the last day of high school, after I had survived the whole nightmare because that is what you did, they had my whole graduating class climb back up onto a school bus to go BACK up to the high school after our senior party.
    I was the only kid out of 200 or so who did not climb back up on the school bus. lol. Buncha goobers, including all the socialites and hot kids. They sat there looking out of the windows of the school bus just like kindergarteners.

  • Monty James August 16, 2018, 9:34 AM

    This is one of my favorites.

  • steve walsh August 16, 2018, 10:33 AM

    Some, like John Lennon, having been saying something similar for awhile now.

    Working Class Hero
    As soon as you’re born they make you feel small
    By giving you no time instead of it all
    Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all
    A working class hero is something to be

    They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
    They hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool
    Till you’re so fucking crazy you can’t follow their rules
    A working class hero is something to be

    When they’ve tortured and scared you for twenty-odd years
    Then they expect you to pick a career
    When you can’t really function you’re so full of fear
    A working class hero is something to be

    Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
    And you think you’re so clever and classless and free
    But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see
    A working class hero is something to be

    There’s room at the top they’re telling you still
    But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
    If you want to be like the folks on the hill
    A working class hero is something to be

    If you want to be a hero well just follow me

  • K Jimenez August 16, 2018, 8:41 PM

    Oh yes. I was that kid. Dropped out in 10th grade. Did a couple of years of college but quit that too even though they wanted to give me a scholarship. I let my children drop out at various stages along the way. All three are out of the house, happily married and some have children. All of them have gone to college as needed. No one lives in moms basement. It’s just my husband of 38 years and me left. We are self employed and have been for years now. We both came from poor families. We did it anyway. Funny but I’m not at all ambitious. Contrary would be a more appropriate word. God is good.

  • Leo August 17, 2018, 8:02 AM

    Check out John Taylor Gatto

  • Jewel August 17, 2018, 10:35 AM

    Dearest H. It is already so much worse than we in our dotage can even begin to imagine.
    Look at the above photo of faggish, social juicebox warriors holding up their wee baby fists…Soyapaloozers and incels all. Disposables. They escaped the abortionist’s scalpel and vacuum only to be made into perpetual infants by their parents and educatrices.
    The worse to come arrived quite a while ago. Now, kindergarteners will be forced into the charnel house with the trannies until the shock wears off and it becomes normal.
    Children who seek to flee the prisoner factory are sane for but one brief and shining moment. They soon become depressed And resigned. And then they go to the university schoolag in order to embrace their slavery with enraged joy. I think fire is the only cleansing agent capable of ending the cancer and scourge of public education.
    The horrors of girls and cliques which boys once understood as a rite of passage in difficult and awkward adolescence has been eclipsed by them having to confront walls of screaming boy hatred from the girls and predatory lust from the faggotized boys.
    We send our kids into minefields with keys around their necks hoping they don’t blow up and wonder why they hate school.

  • Jeffersonian August 17, 2018, 7:07 PM

    I loved the “back on your heads reference”. I say that in my head at least once a week. And I actually like my job. And most of my co-workers. Grade and high school really did suck tho’.

  • Linda Fox August 18, 2018, 12:06 PM

    Every year, I used to tell my chemistry students:
    “They will tell you – these are the best days of your life.”
    “They lie. These are the worst. You have very little choice about the courses you take, none about who teaches you, or who your fellow students are, none about when you arrive, leave, or go to lunch.”
    “If you don’t like this place, you can’t leave. If you finally reach the age at which you can legally leave, they will call you a quitter. Year after year of it.”
    Then, to cheer them up, I added,
    “The rest of life is TOTALLY under your control. Where you live, where you work, who you associate with – you are in charge.”
    Being an adult is terrific.

  • ghostsniper August 18, 2019, 4:13 AM

    Last week our only son, homeschooled, told us our only grandchild, a 5 yo gurl, had “officially” started her homeschooling. He and his wife had already been teaching her from birth and she is not way ahead of any peers if she had been subjected to the public prison and mind control centers. A prediction: she will finish her “government obligation” by the age of 12 or 13 and move to the next level whatever that may be. Our son owns a computer programming business and his wife is 3rd in control of a nationwide construction contracting business so if this planet does not collapse first I see a bright future for this young person.

  • ghostsniper August 18, 2019, 8:36 AM

    I have no idea how that word “not” got in the 2nd line.

  • Vanderleun August 18, 2019, 2:15 PM

    Fixed it.

  • Jon Davies August 19, 2019, 7:49 AM

    Think his mistake was to make it personal…he needed a wider objection…”I’m not going to go to school as a protest against climate change” has worked in the UK (before the school holidays anyway).

  • Gigi August 21, 2019, 1:19 PM

    Even worse was being ‘on the job’ in a Catholic school being tortured by the nuns! I had school phobia for 8 years.

  • ghostsniper August 13, 2021, 1:02 PM

    Thanks Gerard. (2 years later)

  • Dirk August 13, 2021, 1:08 PM

    School was a breeze! I went to school to play.

    Somehow even then I understood the real education was occurring on the playground. The important life lessons. High school I went religiously on Fridays, to discover exactly where the parties were. Again more of life’s lessons.

    Friends there’s more then one kind of education, choose wisely.

    Home school????. We’re my favorites. However I learned quickly that what they gained in academics mostly seemed fleeting when it came time to effectively community. Clumsy, spoke out of turn, had few social graces.

    No worries wonderful kids.

    Communications is learned amongst people. We learn sub consciously what masters and PHD level academics learn only at those levels. That’s the structure of communications. One speaks, the others listen, is a simple example. Another example is, the biggest turd in the room always gets the last word. Doesn’t matter if its playground, or courtroom. That rule always applies.

    While it might seem like that structure is dependent on which country ones in,,,,,it’s not.

    It’s not national, is just how humans do it, around the world. Their are subtle differences, based on religious preferences. Which I find interesting.

    What do I know, my degrees in criminal justice. That’s a real oxy moron, we all know their is no real justice anymore.


  • PA Cat August 13, 2021, 1:10 PM

    Gerard notes above that kids in the early grades once had “No sense of mortality. In short, the lost and golden land of childhood.” Well, that changed in a hurry in 2020, didn’t it? Now that kids are required in too many places to wear face diapers in school all day long because of the all-purpose bugaboo COVID, how can they not have mortality on their minds? Here’s a video from just a month ago about some doctors in Arizona insisting that kids be forced to mask up for school this year again:

    It’ll be interesting to see how many of these elementary school youngsters end up suffering from clinical depression. Ghostsniper’s granddaughter is one of the lucky ones.

  • james wilson August 13, 2021, 1:21 PM

    In 1844 six year old Henry Adams too went on strike from school, lying on his back at the front door. His mother too made threats, but his father was in Congress far away. Eventually the bedroom at the top of the stairs opened and John Quincy Adams, greatcoat, hat, and caine, came down the stairs. Without a word he took Henry by the hand and walked him the mile to school. Upon entering the classroom The President sat Henry down, turned around, and left.

    Henry Adams likened scnool to a colt being broken into a horse. Better times. The purpose of school now is to be broken and neutered.

  • Anne August 13, 2021, 1:44 PM

    My apologies for adding this comment to this conversation. But, on second thought it might not be too far off topic.
    I have just heard this one–maybe you have heard it before, but it is news to me!
    When trying to discover the true origins of Covid, whether it was caused by humans in a lab, or by bats in the market, I have just now heard the democrats latest explanation:
    “It is believed that a scientist from the lab in Wuhan China was the first to catch the virus in the wild, he then of course was an unknown innocent carrier to the lab”
    I don’t know how much more of this crap they expect to sell me.

  • Lance de Boyle August 13, 2021, 3:21 PM

    I’ve observed 100’s of elementary classes over the past 20 years. Like 630.
    This is in North Carolina.
    For what it’s worth,
    Schools in the suburbs or country are usually a pleasure to visit. Most teachers are really happy, love the kids, are full of energy, and are bright enough to ignore the “progressive” bs that was shoved on them in ed schools. These teachers are usually married and with kids. Their kids are sharp, happy, and learn fast. It may be that, at least where I am, schools don’t push the leftist agenda, though the ed school is dominated (kind of like “The Squad”) by really creepy youngish women who push critical theory, critical whiteness studies [what the ever-loving hell!], critical literacy, ant-colonialism, anti-racism, and the rest of the neo-marxist menu. The atmosphere in the joint is a miasma of fetid estrogenic vapor.

    Schools “downtown” are usually horrifying. Noise, stink, dark. Many kids come from mother-only families. Kids sometimes don’t know their last names. Mothers are often fat slobs with loud mouths and are always ready to be pissed off. There are some great teachers, as above, but many teachers are not real smart, yell and threaten, and are incompetent at teaching. The kindergartners are cute and smart. With each passing year, many kids become more and more dour, silent, angry, and sullen. By grade 4 it is over. They can barely read, have little persistence, are often out of control, and will learn very little. Even the good teachers burn out fast. What these kids need is schools that are nothing like their chaotic, ugly family lives—uniforms, small classes, school rituals (flag ceremony), relentless discipline policies and tons of reinforcement, kindness from teachers, short lessons, powerful instructional programs (Saxon Math, Reading Mastery), and school tasks (cleaning rooms, painting, gardening).

    Almost every suburban teacher who pushes the leftist curriculum is, like their leftist perfessers in ed schools, an unhappy, smug, arrogant, usually unmarried or many-times-divorced karen, who is likely to be depressed and unlovable, frumpy, out of shape, and loaded with high self regard based on skill at snarky talk. In the end, however, their lives are largely a waste. So, there’s that.

  • Kevin in PA August 13, 2021, 4:01 PM

    Noting that the article was originally published in 2018 and here we are in 2021.

    The following are my remarks (though I was only able to get 3 minutes, I have entered it into the record) to the local school board. I was not alone. A group of about 100 concerned citizens, some parents and some not.
    Ladies and Gentlemen of the Board:

    I come before you today in opposition to the proposed implementation of POLICY 832. I am a taxpayer in Polk Township and I do not want my tax dollars funding curriculum that is detrimental to the education of children, does nothing to improve general knowledge, defames American history and promotes a vicious lie.

    Equality -v- Equity
    Let me be very clear. Language is important and much of the terminology being put forward in material related to POLICY 832 is Marxian dialectics.

    What is equality? Equality is an American ideal. Equality focuses on the individual. We are all equal under the law. The corollary to this is that each one of us is responsible for our actions and shall be given credit for our individual accomplishments.

    Contrast to equity; Equity is rooted in Marxist ideology and demands that groups, not the individual, have comparable outcomes. Notions of “equity” promote division among class, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation and a multitude of other categories. Equity is a lie. The lie of equity promulgates the idea of an “oppressor” and the “oppressed”.

    We don’t all reach the same place, because each and every one of us are unique. Each one of us have individual aspirations, motivations and capabilities. These differences are among the many things that make people so fascinating. Any attempt to create “equity” is an attempt to dehumanize the individual. Human beings are not automatons to be programmed with the popular political doctrine of the day. Any attempt to arrive at equity as an end must rely upon the perversion of education into hollow dogma and ultimately results in slavish obedience to authoritarianism.

    As an American, I believe in the value of individual achievement and not the lie of collectivization. I understand that hard work, diligent study and personal sacrifice are the building blocks of individual achievement.

    Marxism, Communism, Socialism, collectivism of any stripe is a lie and always ends in tragedy.

    For all citizens, taxpayers and parents of school aged children living in the Pleasant Valley School District; I am speaking to the Pleasant Valley School Board about information I read on the school district’s website.

    If you go to – PVBEARS.ORG. >
    under the heading – ADMINISTRATION >
    go to – PVSD Board/Policies >
    go to – MEETINGS >
    go to – 7/15/21 @ Article 6 B
    Book Policy Manual
    Section 800 Operations
    Title Educational Equity
    Code 832
    Status First Reading

    URL / pdf – https://go.boarddocs.com/pa/plea/Board.nsf/files/C4RJXQ4F565D/$file/2021-07-15%20Policy%20832%20-%20First%20Reading.pdf

    It is there that interested parties will find this disturbing verbiage to which I am referring.

    I will tell you, members of this board, that I am so very glad my children are long past the age of primary and secondary education. I have no child currently attending the Pleasant Valley School system. If I had a child in this school system I would immediately remove that child and find an alternative for his/her education.

    The very fact that you are considering this ridiculous notion of “Educational Equity” is enough to inform me that every one of you should be removed from any position of authority. “Equity Education” is not in the best interest of school children.

    You are demonstrating that you do not have the best interest of children in mind. You are tampering with young minds. By venturing down this path you will be inflicting a terrible harm upon any child that must endure this nonsense of “Educational Equity”. It is a lie. I would not allow it for my own children and neither should any thinking person allow it within the public schools.

    The purpose of education is to teach truth and virtue. Your job is to create and develop better ways to instill in every student a love of learning. It is not to confuse children and to foist upon them radical dogmas and doctrines.

    Incorporating “educational equity” as policy is something to which every American should object.
    What children need from this school district, its teachers and its administrators is improved reading, writing and arithmetic skills. What students do not need is to have their heads filled with this Marxist clap-trap and notions of equity.

    If you go forward with any form of “Educational Equity” plans, I will work diligently to have each one of you removed from your position. Additionally, I will spearhead a movement to defund the public school system.

    Choose wisely.

  • Jack August 13, 2021, 5:10 PM

    I was always smaller than everyone else when I was in school. It was that way from 1st-12th grades. My family never split up but it should have. It was amazingly dysfunctional with a lot of yelling, bullying and cursing by my dear old mom. I was also ADHD as hell but no one back then knew how to explain why Jack had so many problems. I got picked on a lot too and while I never backed down, I also never engaged in a single fight after school that I won. Not a single one. I got the ever loving crap knocked out of me several times and my only trophies were usually a tooth or two, a fat lip and a black eye. It’s amazing just how much street cred you cannot get for showing up the next day to a school where everyone is talking about your latest asswhoopin’ I never tried to start any trouble but I just could not back down usually because I’d try to stick up for my mother’s honor when someone called me a sob or a MF. A lot of good it did neither of us.

    I hated high school but I remember that there was a girl in one of my classes and she was a literal genius but she was also wild and worldly and she didn’t give a shit but she seemed to like me well enough and teased me a lot for the obvious reason that all 16-17 year old boys project when the hormones are raging. My ‘condition’ was always on display thanks to the Levi jeans I wore.

    We sat in those little seat desks that have a space beneath the seat for school books, etc., and at the end of each class kids typically bend over the side of their desks, retrieve their books and gather up their stuff so they can depart for the next class. Well….bless her heart, she sat right behind me and whenever I bent over to retrieve my books she would part her legs so that I could not help but look right into her happy place. And then she’d just crack a huge smile knowing that my little self had no idea of just what the heck I should do with that.

    It’s funny how things work out. I didn’t learn a thing in High School but after my stint in the Navy I put myself through college in 3 years and enjoyed a great career that lasted over 40 years. I know where that girl is too but a fat lot of good it would do me at this age and stage in the game; besides, Levi’s just bind up on me now.

  • Dirk August 14, 2021, 6:37 AM

    And I would argue that school, ALL school is what you make it.


  • EX-Californain Pete August 14, 2021, 6:51 PM

    I must be very fortunate- I graduated long before the schools went libtarded and commiefied.
    After high school, did Trade Schools, not College. Dirk’s correct- it was what we made it, and we got from it what we needed.
    Even more fortunate- no kids to worry about, or what kind of BS they might be getting indoctrinated with or exposed to in ANY school.

    Come to think of it, everyone in the USA is also fortunate- that I never produced any offspring! You’re welcome.