A Digression: The Dark Side of my Childhood, part 1.

AT THE SCHOOLYARD

Oh, it is dark in the schoolyard!

The walls are stained with young blood.

How many innocent souls enter here

only to end up writhing in pain.

For this institution chokes its victims,

and leaves them as broken toys.

This was one of my earliest poems(The earliest poem was a love poem to a girl in the 5th grade.), and expresses my feelings toward incarcerated education.  The story probably began long ago when the Los Angeles Board of Education had to come up with a plan to keep thousands of children occupied and entertained for six hours, five days a week.  It seemed like an impossible task.  But after countless meetings, suddenly Dr. Doctor stood up, and shouted:  “I have it!  We’ll create teachers!”  And so it was.  At first, teachers were scattered sparsely across the LA basin.  But hormonal impulses took over, and soon teachers were begetting other teachers, who beget others.  For, as Leonard Bernstein pointed out in his Mass, “God said that sex should repulse, unless it leads to results.  And so we crowd the world full of consenting adults.”  Eventually, there were enough teachers to take care of the thousands of children, and schools were created to take care of both teachers and children with police guarding the gates to prevent possible escapes.

Don’t feed the birds, feed your own little selves!”

The schools were run on the Soviet plan;  strong centralization with a small group at the top making decisions for all, virtually no freedom in expressing ideas that weren’t sanctioned from above.  However, the Board did keep its promise; the teachers were entertaining, although not a lot of fun.  My 6th grade teacher was a true servant of the system.  He even taught us The Communist Manifesto.  This man wore thick, dark glasses, and we assumed he had problems with his vision.  That this wasn’t the case, was proven many years later when he was arrested for making pornographic films of children.  My 2nd grade teacher was a heavy, strong, obese woman, who shook you if you misbehaved.  She would shake a child so hard that her cheeks would turn red, and she would end up gasping for breath.  The only reason we could think of for her unduly exertions was she suspected a child might have money in his/her pockets.  But the California Gold Rush ended at her door.  Her career came to an abrupt end when she locked a child in a closet, and forgot about it.  My 3rd grade teacher used to rap a child’s knuckles with a thimble or ruler, cawing:  “Take your medicine!  Take your medicine!”  She was a wiry old lady with crow’s eyes and a suspicious disposition.  When she went to the great beyond the following year, not one child shed one tear.

About Robert M. Weiss
From an early age, I've taken great pleasure in reading. Also, I learned to play my 78 player when I was quite young, and enjoyed listening to musicals and classical music. I remember sitting on the floor, and following the text and pictures of record readers, which were popular in the 1940s and 50s. My favorites were the Bozo and Disney albums. I also enjoyed watching the slow spinning of 16s as they spun out tales of adventure. I have always been attracted by rivers, and I love to sit on a boulder with my feet in the water, gazing into the mysteries of swirling currents. I especially like inner tubing on the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. Since my early youth, I've been interested in collecting minerals, which have taught me about the wonderful possibilities in colors and forms. Sometimes I try to imagine what the ancient Greeks must have felt when they began to discover physical laws in nature. I also remember that I had a special passion for numbers, and used to construct them out of stones. After teaching Russian for several years, I became a writer, interviewer, editor, and translator. I continue to delight in form, and am a problem solver at heart.

8 Responses to A Digression: The Dark Side of my Childhood, part 1.

  1. berlioz1935 says:

    This post could easily be rewritten as a script for a horror movie.

    This kind of teacher behaviour was, after the war, outlawed in Germany by the Allied. I wonder why it continued in the USA.

    On my very first day in school I became a witness to a fight between two older boys in the toilette. There was blood all over them and I was wondering whether this would happen to me later. It did.

    Some teachers had trouble adjusting to the new regime and tried to keep corporal punishment in various forms.

  2. I didn’t know that such behavior was outlawed in Germany. That is most interesting… Corporal punishment was accepted in many U.S. schools until the mid-1960s. Children just accepted it, because it was a reflection of the physical abuse so common in American homes.

    • berlioz1935 says:

      When I came home from school and told my mother I was beaten with a cane she said I must have earned it and she would like to give me another smack on top of it.

  3. I know the feeling, literally!

  4. auntyuta says:

    I was never beaten at school and nobody else in my classes was beaten either. I always went to girls’ schools. (Girls must be better behaved than boys, he,he,) After the war beatings were outlawed anyway. We did get a “Tadel”, when we misbehaved. The “Tadel” was written in a book and then the parent of the culprit was asked to come to the school to have a talk with the teacher. Having your parent come to the school was very much feared. And having the “Tadel” written on your report by the end of the term. was very, very bad and to be feared a lot!

    The only time there were boys in my class was in a village school in 1943/44 when we escaped to the country because of increased bomb raids over Berlin. In that village school was only one teacher in his forties with a crooked leg. He kept all the children under control and occupied without any beatings. The only slaps I got was from my mother behind my ears, usually because I had a big mouth and made her angry.

    When I started school in 1941 I had a very gentle elderly woman teacher, called Fräulein Anders. She had to teach a class of 50 children, but only for 2 times 45 Minutes.with a ten minute break (Pause) in between. ( I always took a buttered bread-roll to school and ate it during the 10 minute break! ) After less than two hours we were free to walk back home. All the children (even six and seven year olds) would walk home by themselves. That anyone would be picked up was unheard of. (Kids did not start school until they were at least six years old!) Mothers with children were not supposed to work. For every woman without any children it was compulsory to go to work during the war. A lot had to work in munitions factories or replace men who had been conscripted. As far as I remember there were no male teachers in my primary school. They had probably all been conscripted. .

    High-school started after four years primary school. for pupils who were out to get the ‘Abitur’ also called ‘Reifeprüfung. (usually at age nineteen after thirteen years of schooling) During my first few years at high-school I had again only women teachers apart from two very ancient male teachers: Herr Hohendorf for Mathematics and Dr Petzel for German classes. Maybe a lot of the younger male teachers had not survived the war and new ones had not been trained yet.

  5. Uta, thank you for taking the time to relate your school history. It is quite fascinating, and certainly different from mine! Children usually began kindergarden at five years of age. They finished high school at eighteen.
    I don’t think girls are better behaved than boys, but they are less obvious when they do get out of line. I remember one girl trying to get me to eat a bitter piece of chocolate, and another sticking out her legs seductively to get the male teacher’s attention…. Dostoevsky writes that Russian girls used to entice boys to lick axes in freezing weather to cause them pain. Shannon Mitchum of the Colorado Silver Bullets(a women’s professional baseball league) states that: “Girls are just plain mean!”
    To be fair, I had an excellent 5th grade teacher, who taught me about Greek mythology, and read to us the wonderful Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle stories by Betty MacDonald. And, my 4th grade teacher, who had hyperthyroidism, liked me, so I never had to do much work in her class!

  6. Sun says:

    how interesting and awful at the same time. now we have other problems like school shootings…it never ends does it.

  7. rommel says:

    Yikes! Gripping stories of child abuse by their teacher! Eeek … Now I wonder what maltreatment older people had with their teachers back then.

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