Monday, June 29, 2020

I struggled in school

I read Silent Spring while my parents and their friends discussed women's lib and I announced in class the next week that maybe Earth is a woman who needs to be liberated from male oppression and nearly got kicked out of second grade.

Elementary school was difficult, and middle school proved no easier.

In parochial school, seventh grade, I got paddled (for real) by the headmaster (for real) for writing The Declaration of Independence from Homework on the freshly cleaned chalkboard after our Civics section. I found the punishment unwarranted; I had modeled it exactly from Jefferson; it was good writing. The headmaster's paddle was drilled with holes to "prevent an air cushion," he told me as I bent over in his office. He smacked me, hard, and it stung. A pause and then two more whacks in quick succession. I waited, but he didn't say anything. Two more whacks. The pause was longer this time. I turned my head to look at him, watched him studying my bent over frame. "How long does this go on?" I hadn't ever been paddled before. "Until you cry," his voice was gentle, as if telling the secret of the story. I sighed as I faced forward again. "We're going to be here for a while," I told his desk.

I figured public high school would be better, and by then they had gotten rid of paddles, so I came into my own.

In tenth grade I read 1984 in January of 1984 and was horrified. I started explaining to anyone who would listen that Ronald Reagan has been the chair if the House on Unamerican Activities, and that he had ruined lives while George Bush was the head of the CIA and he had ruined whole regimes, and my parents, by then very post-commune mid-Eighties conservatives got dewy eyed as I spoke and replied, "I know. Isn't it great, dear?" I got busted at school for trying to score a fake id so I could register to vote.

When I made money junior year by selling Bueller-Frye '86 campaign buttons, the real payoff for me was that it was an off-election year.

Senior year I read Drury's Advise and Consent and participated in a mock UN Security Council event. That spring, I circulated a petition to start a third party on the communist platform, saying American government was wildly ungoverned, corrupted by post-war military-industry and tele-evangelism; communism in America was the only ethical path for real equality in the land of opportunity.

I barely graduated.