"Every school has its story, every room its ghost."
January 21, 2001 10:44 AM   Subscribe

"Every school has its story, every room its ghost."

Ian Dugay writes about the terrors of elementary school; his experience might be rather particular (if you read it, you'll understand that I don't mean that in a Columbine kind of way), but he can't be the only one with unpleasant memories -- how do you remember grade school?
posted by lia (17 comments total)
I hated grade school. It was a prison for me. Rather than elaborate, I'd urge anyone interested in the horrible side of school to find a copy of George Orwell's personal essay, "Such, Such Were the Joys." (It's a chronicle of Orwell's school days, and many feel it's the inspiration behind "1984"). I don't think it's available online, but any good Orwell anthology should contain it.

After grade school, I embarked on a multi-decade journey through other horrible school experiences.

I hated Jr. High School.
I hated High School.
I hated both of my undergrad experiences.
I hated grad school.

So many years of pain and horribleness, but I RARELY talk about it. I've found that it's okay to say "high school sucked," but so many people have fond memories of their college days. They feel like you're tarnishing their past if you speak ill of academia. It's like cursing God in a church.

Also, many poorer people work their asses off to get an education. And it seems pretty callous for a middle-class guy like me to poo-poo something they've put their heart and soul into.

I understand all this. But that doesn't change the fact that the first 30 years of my life felt like a prison sentence.

Another off-line resource: "Oleanna" by David Mamet. If you can get past the sexual politics element, it has much to say, pro and con, about the school experience.
posted by grumblebee at 11:18 AM on January 21, 2001

Here is the essay, I don't know if it's the entire thing though.
posted by Mark at 11:25 AM on January 21, 2001

That's a VERY odd link, Mark. It says "Such, Such Were the Joys" and "George Orwell" at the top, but it ISN'T "Such, Such Were the Joys" by George Orwell. Look at the opening paragraph

I am not comfortable in my yellow skin. At one time, until I was twelve, I was able to make myself believe it was special. I even thought it was beautiful most of the time. But no longer. Therefore, each night I stand watch vigilantly guarding my discomfort while my family sleeps.

Interesting, but Orwell didn't have "yellow skin."

Here's the opening of the REAL "Such, Such Were the Joys."

Soon after I arrived a Crossgates (not immediately, but after a week or two, just when I seemed to be settling into the routine of school life) I began wetting my bed.
posted by grumblebee at 11:59 AM on January 21, 2001

I've two distinct kindergarten memories:

1. Singing a song on a rainy day
2. Asking the teacher to help me zip up my fly; she got it caught.

Hence my love of music and belief in self-reliance.

Loved grade school. Hated junior high. But: I spent nearly every other high school weekend attending speech & debate tournaments, chaperoned by a brilliant, chain-smoking, witheringly sarcastic rhetoric coach. The program was generously funded, so we usually had split-level buses, Holiday Inns, steak dinners after a dip in the pool. Highly recommended.
posted by lileks at 12:05 PM on January 21, 2001

Grade school was ok. The kids turned into jerks. I loved high school. So far, I don't like college, but that's simply because I'm not in the school I want to be in. Hopefully, I'm transferring out soon.
posted by tomorama at 12:42 PM on January 21, 2001

Nice thing about being old: can't remember shit about that stuff. I do recall that I disliked high school, probably junior high (middle school). Enjoyed learning in college but was older than most so I felt detatched. Disliked much of grad school but liked studies.
Oddest part: in junior high, a woman they called a "guidance counselor" told me I was not college material I later went on to get Ph.D.
Did I do all that work to even the score with her?
If school sucks, then home school the entire nation and save the tax bucks.
posted by Postroad at 1:07 PM on January 21, 2001

School is Lord of the Flies with chalkboards.
posted by kindall at 2:01 PM on January 21, 2001

Grade school wasn't too bad from what I remember, middle school/junior high would have mad me go crazy but I had some cool friends and a few cool teachers. So it sucked but I got to keep my sanity. High school I was taught at home. The public school system isn't doing anybody any real good anyway, I think we should take Postroad's suggestion and run with it. I missed a lot of school because it actually made me sick. Being miserable does bad things to your immune system (and your stomach.) Not to mention all the stuff that's actually contagious that you picked up from schoolmates.
posted by crushed at 2:37 PM on January 21, 2001

Grade School - Everyone were jerks
Junior High - Everyone were sexually charged jerks
High School - People started to mature, but became more sexually charged
posted by jpate at 3:23 PM on January 21, 2001

Every school has its story, every room it's ghost

"Just like every cowboy sings a sad, sad, song,
Every Rose has its thorn."

Thank you Los Angeles! Goodnight!
posted by Optamystic at 6:11 PM on January 21, 2001

I went to 12 schools in 13 years, public and private, large and small, special and normal.. I can tell you this: Public School SUCKS. You cant see it unless youve experienced alternatives. Of all the forms of schooling it is the worst. The best thing that would ever happen to this country is the complete and total destruction of the public school system. For all the horrors of Columbine there is a message: the system is broken. Put the funds into private schools, home schools and other alternatives give people choices.
posted by stbalbach at 8:23 PM on January 21, 2001

"school choice" is moronic. privatizing public schools shifts the goal of those schools from educating kids to earning a profit for the investors. that is bad and wrong.
posted by palegirl at 8:30 PM on January 21, 2001

"school choice" is moronic. privatizing public schools shifts the goal of those schools from educating kids to earning a profit for the investors. that is bad and wrong.

(I suppose teachers shouldn't receive a salary, then, because then their actions might be tainted by that most impure of motives, self-interest.)

You're assuming that the goal of public schools is currently to educate kids. If that's really the goal, you can't tell it by the results. In reality, most of our public education systems are bureaucracies and have the same primary goal as any other bureaucracy: to perpetuate the bureaucracy. The bigger the school district the worse this problem is.

You also seem to take as a given that educating kids and making a profit are mutually exclusive, though in fact they are not. If the system is arranged such that the easiest way to make a nice fat profit is by educating kids well, based on measurable and objective standards, then the goals are not in conflict and in fact the relatively weak altruistic impulse is reinforced by the strong profit motive.

Based on my own experiences at what was considered a fairly good public school system, I think I would rather die than allow any child of mine to attend a public school. In fact, I will not have children if I cannot do better for them than send them to hell nine months out of the year.
posted by kindall at 9:35 PM on January 21, 2001

Based on my own experiences at what was considered a fairly good public school system, I think I would rather die than allow any child of mine to attend a public school. In fact, I will not have children if I cannot do better for them than send them to hell nine months out of the year.

I couldn't agree more. And by all accounts, things in most public schools in the country are probably far worse now than either you or I ever experienced, in all sorts of ways. If schools are truly as they are described to me now, sending a kid there would clearly constitute child abuse, it seems to me (of course, I think denying a child a real education already qualifies as abuse).
posted by rushmc at 10:22 PM on January 21, 2001

I went to a public school in a time and place when public school budgets, though meager at the best of times, had not been further gutted in favor of private schools. I was miserable from my treatment by the other children, but it would take a lot to convince me that private school students have any less capacity for cruelty. What mattered is that I had a higher than usual number of teachers who cared enough about their profession, and their students, to impart to me a love of learning. I tend to believe that made a greater difference than fancy facilities.

Now I live in a city where schools serve to point out the sharp divisions within the local culture, along racial, religious, and class lines. People ask where you went to high school so that they will know how to judge you. The same parents who vote against funding of the absolute necessities for the public schools deride those who have no better opportunities or alternatives as stupid and ignorant. Yet, when I talk to those who went to the fanciest of the local private schools, they rarely seem to have had any better education than I did, in a public school in a state dismissed by the rest of the nation as ignorant.
posted by harmful at 7:59 AM on January 22, 2001

I went to grade school (second through eighth, 1984-90) at a private Catholic school and I don't think it was any more pleasant in terms of the socialization experience than public school would have been.

Let's see. Getting followed home on the school bus by a teeming clot of kids eager to see a promised show of me having my ass whooped by the school bully, several days running... finding ten dollars on the floor once, then word going out that someone had lost some money, people connecting my small fortune with her lost one and assuming I stole it from her... earning the nickname "Russian Boogey Eater" because of my persistent habit of chewing on my lower lip... various class slurs as a result of where I lived and what my parents drove... the kids finding out I was a Virgo and reveling in calling me "Virgo the Virgin" for weeks...

etc etc. small wonder I can't stand kids. they are meaner than starving dogs.

on the vaguely brighter side, the education *was* better---when I switched from a suburban public school to a city Catholic school halfway through 2nd grade I had all the trouble in the world at first because the kids knew cursive handwriting and multiplication tables and I'd never seen either one. Then when I switched back to a suburban public school to start high school, I absolutely coasted on what I'd learned in Catholic school. (and *then* moved from suburban Pennsylvania to rural Georgia halfway through 10th grade and coasted on what I'd learned up North until I graduated, but that's a different thread, probably.)
posted by Sapphireblue at 10:03 AM on January 22, 2001

I went to the same school from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Ugh. Hated it the more I was there. I was so glad to leave. Granted, I had some excellent teachers, but the environment was not one that did much for me. Now, I'm in college, and while the experience has been better, I finally left my school (U. of Pennsylvania), because, well, I really hated it. Glad to be gone. Trying to transfer to a design school in NYC now.
posted by ookamaka at 10:19 AM on January 22, 2001

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