If I were in grade school these days I would be put on Ritalin, not because of hyperactivity but because I had what today is called Attention Deficit Disorder without Hyperactivity. It used to be called daydreaming.
I first noticed this problem of mine when I was six years old, when the class was taught to read. Even at six I thought the methods used were stupid and boring. This is how we were taught:
SEE DICK. RUN DICK RUN. SEE JANE RUN. SEE SPOT RUN! AND SEE PONY RUN TOO!
What was going on inside my head was a lot different.
MIGHTY MOUSE: "Here I come to save the dayyy..."
YOSEMITE SAM: "You crazy idgit galoot!"
HULK: "HULK SMASH PUNY HUMANS!!"
SGT ROCK: "Take that, you lousy Nazis!" RAT-A-TAT-TAT!
By the time I was in fourth grade the teachers were sending home comments on my report card, saying I wasn't paying attention in class or doing my homework. The most embarrassing thing that ever happened was when the teacher caught me writing "BOMB" on dozens of pieces of paper (thank you, Man from U.N.C.L.E.), which I was going to slip into the desks of my friends. My BOMBS were stapled to a note, which my parents had to sign.
When I was in middle school the teachers tried to make us read Shakespeare. Years later I found out Shakespeare was never meant to be read. His plays were meant to be performed. Most of it didn't make any sense to me at 12, anyway.
EL FABULOSIO: Odds bodkins, thou art a knave, forsooth!
Here was what was going through my head, instead:
Girl: You are soooo cute!
Me: Yes, I know!
Girl: Kiss me!
Me: Take a number and stand in line!
The only one of Shakespeare's play I read and understood was The Tempest. I identified with both Prospero and Caliban. I guess I considered myself half Mad Scientist, half monster.
Later, when I saw the movie, Forbidden Planet, I identified with Dr. Morbius and the Krell. It turned out the movie was based on The Tempest, with Morbius playing Prospero and the Krell as Caliban. I thought, Uh oh. No wonder all my teachers thought I was strange. The fact my head was shaped like a light-bulb, with that megacortex forehead, didn't help, either.
When I got into high school I was lost:
"If Train A leaves the station at 1 pm, and is traveling east at 50 mph, and encounters Train B, which left a station 500 miles away at 6 am, and is traveling west at 40 mph, where would you bury the survivors when the trains collide?"
Me: "Does anybody have any rolling papers?"
The relief I felt when I graduated high school was palpable. Technically, I wasn't supposed to graduate since a C (3.000) average was required. My GPA was – I kid you not – 2.999. One-thousandth of a point below a C. But since my SATs were so high, and I had already been admitted to college, they let me go. They were probably as glad to get rid of me as I was to get rid of them.
One day in college it occurred to me the problem was government schools. I didn't even blame the teachers, who were as stuck in the system as I was.
No competition! A bureaucracy in which the worst made their way to the top! A system which blamed the students instead of the system! Those were the problems! Ha ha ha! I was free! It wasn't me that wacky; it was the entire system that had sucked me in at five and spit me out at 17!
Sooner or later the government schools will go. All socialized systems collapse. I have no doubt about that. It just depends on how much fight they put up. Or, as I often daydream:
HENERY HAWK: Are you going to come all polite-like, or do I hafta muss you up?
I suspect the mussing-up is what's going to happen. I've yet to hear of any socialized system that went away all polite-like.
Indeed, and working in the schools is no picnic, either, which I did for a number of years (I'm a speech-language pathologist) before I moved into private clinical work.
Boys in particular are badly served by the current educational model, of course.
I like to remember that public education was the 10th? plank of the Communist Manifesto.
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