Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Making up for lost time

This is really too long, but I’m making up for lost time. Nothing has been posted here for weeks. This little blog isn’t completely abandoned; there have been other things—like a hurricane—that intervened. So, take your time, get a fresh cup of coffee, and play along at home.

I’ve had the opportunity to swap some childhood memories with an online friend recently. We grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and our experiences were similar, in two far-apart locations. She and I both did the kinds of things that would horrify parents and teachers today. We’re not talking vandalism or depravity here, just the rough-and-tumble things that were, for us, a normal part of growing up and being a kid. My last response to this back-and-forth led to the following:

I have a lot of trepidation about future generations. You learn a lot more about life outside of school than you do in the classroom. "Hilly's village" has kids so pampered and protected today; they're going to miss out on a lot of what, in the long run, builds character in adults. I fear we've already raised a generation of swine, as Hunter Thompson put it. (Your kids and mine are the exceptions!)

I used to be horrified at the "progressive" notions I'd hear about at my daughters’ schools. Things were out of hand by the early '80s. Now, it's progressed to insanity to an old geezer like me. No winners and losers in sporting events? Err...even Darwin's Theorem points out that nature is composed of winners and losers. Wolves eat rabbits and sheep, and all that. No roughhousing on the playground? How are you going to learn how to handle bullies? Just because the school has a comforting "zero-tolerance" policy on bullying, you can't always depend on some authoritarian entity to step in and protect you. Ask the displaced people of New Orleans about this, if you don’t believe me. Life doesn't always play by the rules. I always appreciate a friend’s tale of confronting the bully who terrorized him for years. I have a similar story. Being a scrawny kid, I was picked on for years by two neighborhood bad boys, Phil D____ and Elbert "Bubba" H___. (Nobody called him Elbert, not even his parents!)

One day, walking up the hill from the school bus stop, Bubba hit me in the back of the head with a rock. I guess he just wanted to see the expression on my face. This was in an in-town Atlanta neighborhood, before we moved to the country. Well, Bubba got to see the expression on my face, up close and personal. He was a big, beefy kid, what we call "corn-fed". He outweighed me by a good 20 pounds. He didn't count on me dropping my books and charging him. Like most schoolyard bullies, he had his own little entourage, most of whom were walking up the hill with us. We squared off on a well-manicured front lawn, and, as they say, it was on. Size and weight didn't matter, motivation did. I beat the stuffin's out of that boy. I hit him so hard in the face that his eye socket split and bled. I kicked him while he was down. I smashed his nose with my elbow. Rules are good. We should all live our lives by rules and decent standards. However, when someone else throws the rules out the windows [rock in the back of the head], we have to be prepared to do the same. The military term for that is "force overmatch".

To save face, Bubba later whined that I'd "cheated", and had a knife or nail file when I split his eye socket. I had neither; just my bony little fist, and a determination that this bastard would never pick on me again. And he never did.

Phil, the other bully, was also a corn-fed boy. He lived in a different neighborhood, not far from mine, so he had less opportunity to harass me, except at school. One day, in Miss Evans' 6th grade English class, he backed carefully up the aisle, keeping an eye on Miss Evans at the blackboard. When he was beside my desk, he simply lashed out and popped me on the side of my jaw while teacher's back was turned. The crash of overturning desks caught her immediate attention, as did the sight of me sitting on top of Phil, pounding on him. We didn't get expelled; we didn't even get suspended. We both got a trip to Mrs. Stark's office. The principal made us shake hands and apologize, and we were back in class in an hour. Phil became a pretty good pal after that. In fact, he was the one who sparked my 40-year love affair with the drums. He had a set, and when I'd bike over to his house, he'd let me play them. My father told me once that if you fight someone, you’ll likely end up good friends with them. Take that idea to the geopolitical arena, and glance around at England, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Japan. Like the bullies they were, we whupped ‘em good. Now they’re our friends, more or less. (No, I didn’t forget France. Arguably, they’ve never been our friends. Other people have written cogent books to that effect, but that’s a rant for another day.)

Again, there were rules, but Phil's sneak attack negated them. This progressive notion that one can run whining to a higher authority for protection is leaving today's kids totally unprepared for the vicious world that's waiting beyond our shores. The idyllic days of the '50s and '60s are gone forever. There are people out there who want to enslave us, or see us dead if we resist. That's going to boil down to winners and losers, for sure! Tolerance and diversity are fine things, but they have to be reciprocal. It's good to teach kids to hold out their hands in friendship to everyone, but it's also good to teach them if that hand gets slapped away, it's capable of being formed into a fist for the pursuit of "diplomacy by other means."

No junk food, no sodas in the schools now. Kids can't be trusted to determine what's good or bad for them. Calling them "kids" is politically incorrect. Unless they're Hillary's much-vaunted "children" that support the socialist agenda, they're "young adults". A trip to the ER for a bicycle spill's skinned knee. Self-esteem is more important than understanding Faraday's Principle of Electromagnetic Induction. (Have you seen the flashlight commercial using that phrase? There are plenty of adults walking around who can’t find Iraq on a map, and ask if you need a passport to travel to Hawaii. Were they taught about Faraday in school?) Knowing how to balance your checkbook is helpful, too. IQ and achievement tests are irrelevant nowadays, because they're “racially biased.” Increasingly, grades are becoming irrelevant in some places, because they don't take into account what the student felt about the subject matter, or what they meant to say. They tried, so if the result is a test page of doodlings and misspelled words, that's okay. It's the thought that counts. That's okay for greeting cards, but if I step onto an airliner, I don't want it being flown by someone who thinks we might get to our destination. If I'm gravely ill, I don't want to take medicine formulated by someone who thinks it might work. I want to arrive alive, or get some relief from what ails me. The only area where kids are not adequately protected is the one where they should be: child molestation. 25 years, no parole, for the first offense. Life, no parole, for the second. Think that will ever happen?

[The main reason judges won't give appropriate sentences to child molesters is that the liberal judiciary considers it "cruel and unusual punishment." Pedophiles require special handling for the duration of their incarceration. Put a baby-raper in general population, and his life expectancy is significantly shortened. Whatever else they may have done, many of the other convicts have wives and children. They'll go proactive on a "short eyes" at the first opportunity. And if they don't kill him outright, they'll give him what he gave the kids. Repeatedly, whenever possible. As they should.]

One of the reasons I balked at going into teaching as a second career after I retired is that my ideas, expressed here, are totally incompatible with today's educational standards. Our reminiscences here about childhood remind me that we are formed by what we did then. Today's children don't get to do anything. They can get a few vicarious thrills with video games, but litigation, state-imposed liability, technology, and "progressive" education has removed all the fun from the hijinks of my youth. When Mrs. Trot and I attended PTA meetings, my ribs would be bruised for days afterward from her sharp little elbows. She knew me too well. I'd open my mouth to respond to some of the rubbish coming from the podium, and POW!

My older daughter had a problem with a neighborhood bully when she was growing up. This girl terrorized her for years. God help us if Mrs. Trot or I tried to intervene. I told my daughter to do what I'd done at that age: beat the snot out of the other girl. She was horrified at the thought. It went counter to everything they'd been teaching her at school. I gave her the short version of there being times when the rules go out the window. She couldn't accept the idea. I don't call it education today; I call it state-school programming. Hindsight says it's probably a good idea that my kidlet didn't go proactive on that other girl. Even 20 years ago, she would have been arrested, and we would've been sued. Think of that footage where the cops had to be called to put the out-of-control black child in handcuffs recently. In our day, the teacher would have hauled us to "the office", and we would've gotten paddled. And another one at home, for being disruptive and getting paddled at school. Now, in the Florida incident, the teacher couldn't even restrain the kid, much less swat her. I’m not talking about beating a child senseless, but instructing them to “go cut a switch” like my grandma did might go a long way toward immediate chastisement and long-term good behavior.

You think those kids of militant Islam are protected and pampered? "Don't throw those rocks, Abu! You might put somebody's eye out!"