Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Fucker With the SS Tattoo on His Neck

So, I was on my way out to Cumberland Furnace yesterday with a Unitarian. I don't want to make broad generalizations, but I will say that it has been my experience that, if you want to have really thought-provoking conversations, stick yourself in the car with a UU. And, I was trying to figure out what would make someone get a tattoo of the SS insignia on his neck. Is he so sure of his bad-ass-ness that he assumes this will never lead him to trouble? I mean, you'd think that one lone guy with an SS tattoo on his neck would also be covered in fresh and faded bruises. But this guy seemed in relatively good health. And then something very troubling occurred to me. Maybe kids today can have SS tattoos on their necks because other kids don't know what it means. See, I was thinking about when I moved to the town where I first met the Man from GM. Before that I lived in a town with a school system subsidized by the nuclear power industry. It wasn't the greatest school system in the world--the Professor often tells me stories of this strange thing called an "orchestra" in which young folks can play instruments like the "viola" and "French horn" and though I try to say that we had that, too, and called it a band, I'm still not sure we're talking about the same thing--and we didn't have AP courses or anything, but by my sophomore year, I'd had half a year of French and a semester of Spanish and driver's ed and lots of math and English classes. When I moved to the Man from GM's hometown, even though I utterly suck at math, I tested out of almost every math class they could offer me. I got an A+ in geometry, folks, and I can't even correctly use a compass. When our English teacher was out sick, she left me in charge of the class. Our Physics class was so bad that we had an elaborate system of cheating. The Man from GM was taking Physics up at a junior college and he'd come back and show us his answers and we'd all struggle to get to them. Which brings me to my first point. That school system was so bad that the Man from GM had to take classes up at the junior college throughout high school in order to get the education he and his parents thought they needed. Think about that. There are no private schools in that town (of course). There's nowhere else to send your kids. So, what if they aren't smart enough to be taking junior college courses their sophomore year? What if they are, but you don't have the money or extra car or the flexible work schedule to drive 40 minutes one way to take them to an additional school? Our history class my junior year was American history. Most of it was spent watching Ken Burns's civil war documentary. I don't remember taking any history classes my senior year. For me, academically, those two years were an utter waste. Everything I learned, I learned from reading on my own or from the Man from GM (which, indirectly, makes it his fault that I can't balance my checkbook. Thanks for nothing, Man from GM.). The Professor once told me that she thought that almost everyone she graduated with went to college. Out of the 47 of us, seven of us went. Of those seven, only one moved back. Ha, see, here's a truth about ruralness and poverty. Your best chance of escaping is a 4-year college education, so everything is set up to keep you from getting that. The public schools are shitty and you have no other options, so you're, for the most part, completely unprepared for college life. Because so much depends on you not leaving. The towns and farms and factories need smart people to run them, but having an education rapidly reduces the chances that you'll come back to do so. Far better to keep you smart but under educated, so that they can keep you there. I'm saying that I get that it's not just about black sharecroppers and Mexican migrant workers. It really is about a whole system that depends on poor, desperate people. And one of the most ingenious ways to keep people poor and desperate is to cut the children of those people, regardless of color, off from good, meaningful educations. I don't begrudge parents of inner-city schools wanting vouchers. I understand the Democrat's position that we need to fix urban schools, not yank kids out of them. But god damn, schools need to work now and to ask another generation of poor people to wait around for schools to get better makes no sense. It's like someone comes to you with his arm sliced wide open and he says "I cut myself on that broken glass, please help me." and we're saying "Oh, well, I'll see if I can find someone to sweep that up." My mom, as you may have discerned, is a teacher. She spent most of her career teaching science and French to rural children. Once the meth problem got so bad that she feared for her safety in the classroom, she went back to school and got certified to teach reading to elementary school children. Right now, she and another woman run this remedial reading program. Almost half of her students aren't actually "slow learners;" they just come from Spanish-speaking homes and are attempting to learn another language and learn to read all at the same time. The other half is just behind where they should be, for a variety of reasons. When I was home, I asked her about "No Child Left Behind." It took her a long time to formulate her answer and what she told me obviously disturbed her and me as well. Here is the gist of what she said: On the one hand, she doesn't like it. She feels like it does encourage just teaching to the test and that she's not sure that gives teachers the flexibility they need with kids. She also doesn't like that it means that the kids are taking tests so often, because it really fucks with the school calendar. Plus it's unfunded. Plus all the reasons you've already heard about why it sucks. But (ha, you knew that was coming), in the second grade at her school, there are two teachers who refuse to teach to the test and two who've set up their whole curriculum around getting their kids ready for those tests. And here's what gives my mom great pause about No Child Left Behind--the kids in the classrooms focused only on the test are doing better. They're reading better and behaving better. She says that she doesn't think it's because No Child Left Behind is some cure-all for the ills of public schools, but because it can force teachers to actually aim for something. And maybe this isn't a problem at schools full of good teachers, but a lot of us kids out in the countryside aren't going to schools full of good teachers. Wow, this went a long way from the fucker with the SS tattoo on his neck. Anyway, I'm torn between feeling sorry for his stupid, ignorant ass and hoping that someone sticks a fork right in that tattoo. I think I feel both things.

6 Comments:

Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

Godspeed that fork. I certainly hope he learns a little about history at some point, but first the fork.

I spent a few months going to a Unitarian church. All the women strangely resembled Suzanne Vega.

6/16/2005 02:39:00 PM  
Blogger Yankee T said...

The fork! I vote for the fork!

6/16/2005 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Maybe in a perfect world, someone would give him a long history lessong while stabbing him with a fork...

6/16/2005 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger Taketoshi said...

hm, pretty much all of this post speaks to my experience of public school in poor rural areas.

and as much fun as the fork sounds, i'd suggest a kick to the face instead.

6/16/2005 03:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You people should brush up on your history. The Waffen SS was a fighting force. And regardless of what the popular propaganda says thats all. My uncle was in the SS come stick a fork in my if you want ill stick it up your A$$

8/10/2006 12:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Long live Hitler and the movement. Any none believer can piss off!!! Heil Hitler

11/07/2006 09:29:00 PM  

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