Saturday, October 6, 2012

Class is By and Large Dismissed

Sleepless night on the couch before I hit the road to Nashville for a few days. Being up from 4a to about midnight, you'd think I could sleep more easily for a while. Ah well; time to write.

I found myself thinking back to an instance in high school where my intranet account seemed to have frozen up at a rather inconvenient time. I needed to use Word, and I wasn't being granted access. I went down with a hall pass like the ones I always carried through the halls during class when I had to — exactly once, during freshman year, did someone actually stop me to look at it — and talked to the network admin about the problem. The cause was indeed found: My account had been purposely suspended because I had a small bunch of mp3s in the folder.

That was kind of amusing; they were not full songs. They were merely clips of 'em, used in a Powerpoint presentation for Spanish class the previous semester. I used them because I apparently had no clue how to give a Powerpoint presentation, in any language. I considered, and kind of still do, Powerpoints to be excess media. Words on the screen and coming from my mouth? What does that accomplish? So, music man that I am, I just had bits of songs for the audience's enjoyment as they read. And I had explained this at the beginning of the presentation — in Spanish, of course.

But anyway, it evidently took admins a while to discover that there were mp3s (of any variety) in my folder, and they just suspended the account without a notification one day, when I rather needed to use the account for some advanced-placement physics work. I calmly explained to the admin in that basement cloaked in the sort of dull yellow that only schools possess, that the mp3s were old news and could be safely erased. Normality was restored. Still, though, I look back and recall just how terribly bureaucratic the old high school was.

High school was horribly bureaucratic. We weren't allowed to wear hats; apparently, hats are dangerous weapons. You throw 'em like a Frisbee, they can cut through solid metal statues. It was in a movie. Or, I think their explanation was, we could hide other weapons in the spaces between the top of the hats and the top of our heads. Well, by that logic, couldn't we be hiding weapons in all our clothes? We should all walk around naked! That ought to ensure a lack of dangerous weapons. Unless someone figures out how to shoot a laser from within their finger or something; then I guess we're screwed.

But yeah, everybody naked in the Illinois autumns and winters! That's wonderfully in tune with the bureaucracy. And there'll be no weapons. Except maybe exacerbated teenage hormones. But even then, in this age of tight, low-rider jeans on the ladies, I'm absolutely amazed at the self-restraint I had during those years. And at twenty-six years of age now, having still never had even a casual girlfriend, I'm still utterly astounded at the civilized self-control I, and probably a great many others, seem to have.

But back to schools. Last night, on the national news, they ran a story about young women turned away from their own homecoming dance because, in some Utahan's eye, their skirts were too short. They had a picture of the spurned ladies in their dance clothes. I can tell you this: There was absolutely nothing provocative, offensive, or anything of the sort about any of the ladies or their apparel. Who cares about bare legs up to the knees? Legs do nothing for me. The good stuff is in between!

It's all so arbitrary. I think we should find a new name for "schools". Everything else in our society is being made over; just ask George Carlin. But I think I have a new term to describe schools: Human processing plants. Manufacturing facilities designed to convert vibrant and promising young people into passive sheep, accepting whatever they're told and never revolting, despite all the urges to the contrary at that age. Somehow, by and large, they pull it off. Saddening.

Although, there was the one rule during our Freshman year where we all started out having to wear those ID tags with the clips on us at all times. Enough of us rejected the notion that the requirement was eventually thrown out. A small victory, perhaps; we seemed to make the point that someone legitimately associated with the school could wreak as much havoc as someone who waltzed in from outside.

By the way, this last was 2000 — before 9-11. It's possible that the country was always heading this way, and that 9-11 merely accelerated it. Schools can easily be seen as microcosms of this country — people obsessed with security and soulless bureaucracy as a supposedly airtight and efficient enforcement method. I remember one time somewhere after 9-11 when everybody in the whole school got evacuated and crammed into the next-door middle school's gymnasium because someone spilled salt on a table in the cafeteria at breakfast, and someone cried ANTHRAX. Fun times.

But that's just it; schools as national microcosms. If we can change how the schools function, maybe we can change how the country functions. If the presidential debates and surrounding political scene are any indication, the change is quite in order. I say start with the schools. Teach the kids to think for themselves; when to rebel; when to comprehend and accept reason in rules. Who knows, it might catch on. More schools; fewer human processing plants.

Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta rub one off to a fantasy of teen girls in tight low-riders.

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