Something strange is happening in the United States. A Canadian friend recently said, “I can remember when Americans weren”t afraid of everything.” Just so. Don”t run on the playground because you might fall. Don”t roughhouse because you might get a bruise. Don”t go outside at high noon because you might get skin cancer. Don”t swim after eating because you might get a cramp. If a child draws a soldier, call a SWAT team because he is a murderous psychopath. Don”t ride a bicycle without a helmet. Fill in the deep end of the pool because someone might drown. Supervise everything. Control everything. Fear everything.
If these are not the neurotic fears of women and capons, please tell me what they are. Such run the schools. They make policy.
Is everything so dangerous? In my first eighteen years, three kids I knew died”one in kindergarten of appendicitis and two in high school, one of cancer and the other a suicide, probably because of hideous sebaceous acne over most of his body. Deaths by dodge ball: 0. By falling down while running: 0. By murderous seven-year-old psychopaths: 0.
Yes, I realize that the schools face many other problems, chief among them that much of the country no longer takes schooling seriously. Pious slogans such as No Child Left Behind of course mean No Child Allowed Ahead. Discipline a child and his parents sue. Suspend serious troublemakers and you face charges of racial profiling. Disguising the gap in performance between ethnicities takes precedence over teaching. The stupidest fad is grading teachers on how well their students test, it being impossible to get a class of unintelligent, misbehaving, culturally uninterested students to perform well.
I wonder whether some of my correspondents and I are not talking past each other. Being in my late sixties, I remember a world that any but the most antediluvian of current teachers cannot. It may be that therapy, drugging, and fear of everything have been around so long now that they are thought normal. Maybe even the idea of schooling as I knew it no longer exists except among ancients. “Nucler physicts”? No teacher in my sixth-grade school (Athens, Alabama) would have tolerated that for a moment. I suppose, though, that if I objected to illiterate spelling today, I would be told of the danger to the child’s self-esteem.
When my daughters were in high school some fifteen years ago, a history teacher (I think it was) was warned to stop correcting her students” grammar: That was for the English teacher to do. When I noticed that their science handouts had common chemical terms badly misspelled, I contemplated going to the school and asking why the hell they had teachers of such surpassing incompetence. Sand against the tide. It would have been racist, and my daughter would have paid the price.
And when my eldest graduated, all of the academic awards went to girls. Since girls have always been diligent and made good grades, it follows that either boys have become less intelligent or that they have been pushed under by a hostile feminocracy. I am not imagining this. It is documentable. There will be a price for this.
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