Teaching: Precisely What is the Use ?

I had been walking along the concrete path that ran next to the wall of the supermarket,
when I could not help but notice the approach of a little girl
being dragged along at a brisk pace by (what presumably was) her mother.

As she was hauled nearer, the little girl looked me full in the eyes,
smiled and said, “Hi!” – her little hand waving up at me.

I did not even have time to smile down at her, let alone respond similarly
… and looked over my shoulder to see her craning her head to look back towards me.

I managed a wave before the little tyke was hauled behind a motor car,
which then obscured her from my sight.

I found that I had to stop as the experience had filled me
with a tremendous amount of sadness.

A little child with an evidently affectionate nature,
being dragged along by ‘mummy’ who was ‘far too busy’
prattling into a mobile telephone,
to let her child walk at a child’s speed and ability –

much less pause and let her little girl say hello to a kindly,
grey-haired man who was walking past.

I have often thought – with deep sorrow, of the various sights
that have crossed my eyes, of what now passes for modern ‘parenting’ …

of the children I have seen who appear to take ‘second place’
to gadgets; or who are strapped into automobile child seats to,
subsequently, have an (apparently) built-in video screen switched on –

as though the brains of the average child are not anaesthetised enough
between TV screens and computer screens, adults now stuff them in front
of another screen when out for a drive.

I have encountered school-teachers who, like myself, had quit
… because they have a moral conscience – because they:

refused to teach promiscuous sex;

were ordered not to fail any student
in case they damage some rebellious brat’s self-image;

were told to ‘pass’ students who could neither spell
nor speak grammatically; or,

were obliged to read little children books whose sole purpose
is to ingrain the concept that little Sarah has two daddies.

If a conscientious child can read, write, and calculate mathematics,
he or she will be able to … think – and discern objectively.

Unless of course, the exact opposite is desired: in which case,
an entire race of ‘humanity’ can be manufactured that will be incapable
of moral objectivity or original thought.

It was Wells, I believe, who wrote something along the lines of
a future world inhabited by two species of human life:

1. Fragile Hedonists and,
2. Slavering, disposable Savages who labour.

Exercise the mind when young, and it WILL function whenever the child
– once an adult, needs to make life-changing decisions.

But children have not had their minds exercised now,
for the better part of – ( what ? ) – thirty years ?

Machines now tell children what to think, what to believe,
and how they should respond to any given situation.

Reading … ? Not in the age of video and comic books,
when popular text centres upon witches, werewolves, and vampires.

Mathematics … ? I have long ceased to even attempt
to hand a cashier coins at the supermarket: they are (it seems)
utterly incapable of ‘making change’;

Writing … ? Writing.

Ahhh yes, Writing.

Cursive writing – the one distinguishing characteristic
that remained to separate human beings from machines –

is now being eliminated from public schools.

Along with that last vestige of human, creative touch, goes the exercise
and development of fine motor skills, creative development,
and distinguishing personal uniqueness.

In short, the brain will no longer be exercised:

will no longer slow down long enough to create a sentence;
disgorging instead, a sort of type-set grunting, punctuated by filthy expletives.

With its last remaining opportunity for mental exercise and development
now eradicated, the human mind now becomes a mere intermediary
– an input device – for communication into a machine.

I will never forget Mr Chiswell telling us boys in 1974:

“If you ever want to be a ‘real man’ … don’t you EVER
leave a woman waiting for your telephone call.
Make sure that you honour your commitments; and keep your promises.”

Mr Chiswell set aside an hour on Wednesday afternoons to teach us morality.

Let a teacher attempt that today
and he or she will be out of a job.

I know.
I have met them.
I am one of them.

Woe betide any adult in the 21st century who acts like
– or reveals themselves to be –
a compassionate, conscientious, moral adult.

I recall, in 2001, working for three hours in the afternoon,
at an ‘after school club’ in Midlothian. We had taken the children,
aged 4 to 10, for a trip to ‘The Bouncy Castle’ in Edinburgh.

On leaving, in a large, open area consisting of benches
where all shoes were to be left, one little girl
had overbalanced whilst putting on her shoe –

she fell backwards, and her head hit the cement floor
with a truly sickening thump.

She was trying to scream and cry: but was doing so with such force,
that no sound came out.

I scooped the little girl up in my arms, held her to my chest
and cradled the back of her head – feeling, with apprehension,
for any sticky wetness of blood.

I quick-marched the distance of the big warehouse complex,
through the hordes of mothers and children, towards the doors where Eleanor
– the woman in charge, was waving for the school bus.

On turning, to look, she noticed me,

and began screaming hysterically.

NOT for the obviously injured little girl – but screaming, over and over again:

“Put her Down ! Put her Down !!!”

Running over, she grabbed the little girl from my arms,
and plunked her down on the floor, where she told the crying child
to wait in the queue to board the bus.

Even my angry description of the force and sound of that little girl’s head
hitting the cement floor was not enough to stir
even a pretence of compassion from the woman.

You see, I learned – for the first time – that, in the 21st century,

to pick up and comfort an injured child

is now termed … Sexual Molestation.

Which must make me … it follows … a sexual predator.

It was with great difficulty that I did not – upon our return
to the after-school building – tell Eleanor what she could do with her job.

A few weeks later, I had a group of children in the gymnasium,
standing as their ‘safety’ while they bounced on the springboard,
and into a pile of foam mats.

Three boys came in with a football, and began kicking it around the gym.
I yelled at them to take it outside.

One of them drew back and gave the ball a wallop …

… sending it straight into the face of the little girl
who was waiting to use the springboard.

The impact actually threw her back with such force
that her feet whipped up before she hit the ground.

I grabbed the offending creature under his armpit and marched him
out the fire door before staunching the blood from the little girl’s nose
and carrying – ( yes, that’s right, I picked her up as well ) –
her to the sink in the first aid room.

Again, I was taken to task for this Crime Against Society.

No – not the ‘tenderness-and-consoling-embrace-equals-paedophilia’ crime …

… but for my lack of tenderness towards the arrogant upstart
who refused to do as he was told,
and injured a little girl who was standing quietly.

All was quickly made clear as Eleanor hissed in barely-controlled Terror:

“His father is a major contributor to this school.”

I was ordered to apologise to the vicious miscreant.

Needless to say, under no threat of any description, was I
going to apologise to a disobedient, unrepentant, 11-year old brat.

Which, of course, made that my last day of work.

Never mind rebellion, wilful violence, arrogance, disobedience,
bullying, foul language, disruption to class … or Reading,
Writing, or Arithmetic –

a teacher’s ULTIMATE concern now, is to ensure
that he does not damage little Johnny’s Self Esteem.

You See … in the 21st century,
Dick and Jane MUST be filled with self confidence

so that they can go out into the real world,

and tell their elders to “F**k Off”.

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