The Crusades: Religious wars that had the objective of conquering the Holy Land from Islam, to combat paganism and heresy, or gain political and territorial advantage, considered a penitential exercise that brought forgiveness for all confessed sins. Ultimately, the huge distances made the mounting of crusades and the maintenance of communications insurmountably difficult. It enabled the Islamic world to use the logistical advantages of proximity to victorious effect. (Wikipedia)
Our own time: George Steiner labeled the 100 years ending approximately 1973: "The century of barbed wire". Raymond Aron called the period beginning 1914: "The century of total war."
- Again, thank you for talking with me.
- I hope everything I have to share with you is as relevant to St. Paul's School today as The Third Reich 卐 is to contemporary Federal Republic of Germany, or Dehomag is to current International Business Machines Corporation (IBM). It is important to remember the past, both to honor the sufferings of those who underwent it, and also to best be able to do better for the present and future. (Remembering sins of fathers does not eo ipso urge indictment of their sons.)
- Please interrupt me any time you have a thought or a question. I will have emailed my talking points, so I think it is more important for you [Dr. Huang] to ask me what might interest you than for me to talk on. Due to repressive childrearing which made me afraid to think what I might think, I remain subject to l'esprit de l'escalier, and I try to take account of the possibility of false memories.
- It is possible that everything in the present document applies to only one person, myself (BMcC[18-11-46-503]) 1958-64. StP teachers and administrators, and other students possibly had different needs and abilities, and other potential hopes for their living. I feel that I, too, had a right to life, and that my life -- my hopes and fears and other emotions and thoughts -- matters, at least for me (BMcC[18-11-46-503]). (From the school's perspective, the proper pedagogy of normative students should be informed by studying outliers, just as sailors could never have been sure how far they could safely venture from shore unless someone had risked sailing to the earth's edge.)
Why am I contacting you, now?
"What men are willing to put up with depends on what they are able to look forward to." (Arnold Hauser)
"The customer is always right." (John Wanamaker, et al.)
- I was and still feel intimidated by the school. Ironically and entirely unrealized at the time, the secondary picture on my yearbook page (below right) now seems prophetic: It shows me digging through a box of discarded paper, with the title: "a la recherche du temps perdu".
- I recently was looking at Charles Caroll of Carollton's homes (esp.: Mount Clare) on The Internet and stumbled upon the 2001 scandal where a budding young minotaur lacrosse player violated the honor code of omerta: he videotaped himself having sex with a girl from another private school, showed it to the team and the story was in The Baltimore Sun newspaper (01, 08 April 2001) and other venues including The Washington Post and: here. My issues here are twofold: (1) Body-contact athletics are brutalizing: how can an activity which entails the participants wearing a steel cage to protect their face (right) be salubrious? And (2) I had no erotic pleasure in my youth (le grand décès).
- I cannot understand how Germany and Japan could accept what their countries did in World War II, while St. Paul's School for Boys current responsible officers stonewall and refuse to own up to the harm their school did to me. The best way for sons to become cleansed of the sins of their fathers is to acknowledge them: "Yes my father did those bad things, but I do not do them. I was not there. I sincerely appreciate your calling my attention to what happened before I came on the scene and which, as you may understand, the perpetrator did not tell me about his crimes. I earnestly endeavor to do better. Can we go forward together to a better future? We will start by placing your historical documentation in a new school Archive for all -- students, faculty, and any others -- to study. Can you (BMcC[18-11-46-503]) accept that as a first step to truth and reconciliation?"
- I was an intelligent and also fragile and sensitive child (right). My home life was dysfunctional. My mother was an alcoholic ambulatory schizophrenic who could not drive an automobile. She "had no boundaries", i.e., was chronically highly intrusive (consequently, I would have greatly benefitted from teachers who would have respected me, honored my boundaries, and given me "space" to breathe). My father's job kept him away from home 5 days each week, so she was a prisoner Monday thru Friday each week in our split-level house on an acre of lawn in "Wakefield" off Dulaney Valley Road abutting Pine Ridge golf course. His sales territory had been Virginia; she drank Virginia Gentleman bourbon. She forbade me as a teenager to squeeze my acne pimples because she reserved squeezing my pimples for herself. Etc. My parents were also uneducated. Starting sometime in my late High School years, I suffered from chronic, debilitating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) fears.
- Maybe in 7th grade I tried using one of my middle names instead of my first name, but that didn't help; "B. Robert H. McCormick" just looked a bit "classier". I was trying to figure out how to cope with a life situation into which I did not "fit". My idiosyncratic thematizations, especially anent handwriting (to be detailed below), of what others apparently did not think about, should have suggested to the school that I needed and might benefit from special enrichment. Bertolt Brecht urged that it is a potentially tragic mistake to apply a rule which fits what is statistically most frequent to every instance indiscriminately. Before Brecht, I identified with Franz Kafka's stories and the ending of Italo Svevo's novel: "The Confessions of Zeno".
- Probably what somewhat protected my spirit/soul from from being totally crushed by both home and school was having developed moderate schizoid personality disorder. I needed a loving/nurturing mother: "alma mater", who ideally would also have been wise and even educated.
- It is critically important to situate what I underwent at StP in the larger society of the time: The Dark Ages, which may still be present today in middle-class America, per President Trump's eulogization of "our beautiful and successful suburbs". This ethnological formation included such psycho-sociological phenomena as "the organization man", and "keeping up with the Joneses" and was for myself still miasmic at Yale "in loco parentis", translate: parents are insane. It is diagnostically imperative to study and shed light on, to be able to exorcise, this broader context in which the administration and faculty of StP seem to have operated; but I cannot cover everything here.
- First year latin teacher Mr. Angelo Gentile (right) had a locked closet of expensive books in his classroom and each day he selected a student to be ~book boy~ to look up things in the valuable books for the class. Even the least academically oriented were in the rotation. The students were thus taught by experience to respect books. John Hawkes (nickname: "Spaz"), who at some point before senior year disappeared, later in life thanked Mr. Gentile for having taught him to respect books.
- In math class one day, Mr. Stephen Fertig (West Point graduate, dying from Hodgkins lymphoma) unceremoniously told us that the program of studies at The United States Military Academy was mostly(?) rote memorization.
- There was religious freedom. The chemistry teacher, Mr. Ron Mraz (Yale, B.A.) only got in trouble when he told the students that nobody in the 20th century could really believe in God. The reason he got presumably a "slap on the wrist" for this was that there was a mentally retarded student (a minister's son?), who heard it and it troubled him. When Mr. Mraz later left to teach in a Baltimore City public school, I heard he had religious difficulties. (I became an atheist at StP.)
- As a "Headmaster's list" student, I was allowed to spend my "free periods" in the library instead of the otherwise compulsory, claustrophobic overcrowded, sometimes overheated "study hall" (in an attic room in the Upper School building). The library had magazine, which was a high culture and beautiful publication. Also: The Illustrated London News.
- I was not physically threatened by bullies, so did not fear bodily harm.
- There was a hymn we occasionally sang in Chapel with hopeful words: "New situations teach new duties; new knowledge makes old wisdom uncouth."
- Another possibility that comes to me just on the edge of memory and forgottenness: There was another teacher who I don't think hurt me: Mr. Williams, a math teacher who also conducted mechanical drawing non-credit class in the afternoons (I could do that instead of hated athletics), and who, if I remember correctly, also designed some faculty housing, i.e.: he may have been at least somewhat architecturlly trained. This leads me to speculate that maybe the reason he was not destructive like most of the teachers was that he had a skill other than disciplinarianly pedagogying boys.
"It takes a licking and keeps on ticking." (Timex Corporation)
- Thomas Stetcher, who was intelligent and sensitive (only jewish boy in my class, I believe) committed suicide in maybe 9th grade. He had invented his own language. (I tried to invent my own language too, but did not get nearly as far with it as Tom did.) I have been reminded that a child creating his or her (or other) own language can be a sign of serious or potentiality for serious mental illness, of which the school could have taken note and helped Mr. Stetcher. If I heard correctly, my classmate George Benbow killed himself shortly after graduating. I think he was a gentle person and a good student. I am not sure he even made it to college or if he did, for how many years.
- In 7th grade I decided I did not like writing script and changed to writing all block letter uppercase characters with capital letters just bigger. I forget the name, but there was a teacher [Mr. Mike Rentko?] who did not approve of this. He did not impose a punishment on me, perhaps because I was an "A" student? But he did threaten me that while I might be able to get away with this in school, I would not be able to write fast enough to "keep up" with studies in college. I seem to recall it was also not celebrated that I did my math assignments in permanent ink, not pencil. I think I should have been respected for my choice of writing style, because I was demonstrating individual responsibility, initiative and creativity, not unthinking conformity. Furthermore, the teachers were able to read what I wrote, so what problem should they have had with it, qua teachers?
- I was disrespected by having: "masters", whereas I was not a slave. Nor was I ever shown compassion or empathy: I cannot remember ever being gently taken aside and asked if anything might be concerning me, could there be something I might like or hope for, etc. My teachers taught me by their behavior to have a pervasive background fear of: ").
- Returning to StP sexuality. I did not know physiological sex existed until at least after 7th grade, nor that erotic pleasure existed until after long after that. In later life I feel a large part of the joy I might have had in living was denied me by faculty prudery single-genderism. Unlike some other students, I did not have an outside-school sex life (at some point, when I finallly began to learn what sex was, I concluded that only "jocks" were entitled to sex (see right)). Neither did I get any "Tea and Sympathy" (ref.: Robert Anderson play, 1953). In 7th grade, 2 of my classmates (one of whose surname was: Boyd) were expelled, if I understand correctly, for what I would later learn is called: "fellatio," in the Middle School boys' toilet room where students had no privacy, and teachers used the room to go between floors of the building because it included a staircase. (I generally held my urine all day until I got home in the evening, because I did not want the private parts of my body to be publicly exposed.) In antipodal contrast with StP, in Kyoto Japan, a Buddhist abbot once discreetly tried to seduce me; I have no idea what may have led to [the rumor of?] two teachers being required to attend Chapel. I have never aspired to be a "stud".
- I never entered the boys' locker room in the "gym", for similar reasons. I now believe that single gender public nudity without acceptance of homosexuality is a form of sexual repression to channel young persons' healthy instinctual development away from its proper object to such things as brutality in body-contact competitive athletics and war. "Men without women." (See also John 20:17, "Noli me tangere.")
- During class hours, we students were coerced to attend mandatory "School spirit": "cheer rallies" (mass propaganda rituals to hype up students' aggression). Students seemed to like it. I was tolerated to stand sullenly at the back of the Upper School courtyard through these events. I thought and felt that just being a part of a [non-sacramental...] mass was not conducive to individuated life or anything I wanted; I did not want to be stuck in an unthinking belligerent hyped-up crowd. This is not something I have cooked up retrospectively: On my 1964 yearbook page it reads: "he opposed the cult of school spirit".
- I wrote [Appendix B] to but did not receive a reply from the current (2020) Headmaster after he wrote a public letter to the school community stating: (1) He is committed to the development of each student as an individual, and also: (2) He cheers excitedly for the school's varsity body-contact athletic teams. I suggested to him that patriotic fervor and individuality are mutually exclusive. Individuals are self-accountable persons who shape their own lives, not intoxicated followers of a True Faith.
- StP is associated with St. Paul's Episcopal Church? I never saw faculty exhibit interest in spirituality, for instance, that their Lord and Savior was nailed to a wooden CROSS to redeem their sins. They seemed much exercised about winning laCROSSe games ("Beat Gilman!") and, after I graduated, displaying electroplated winning team trophy cups in a glass case (worship of graven images). I now wonder: On what varsity body-contact athletics teams did Jesus Christ play (right)?
- One day in math class Mr. Fertig expended class time publicly shaming classmate Dana Hodgdon because Dana had athletic ability but chose not to "go out" for the varsity body-contact athletic team of the season.
- I was subjected to 2 Inquisitorial Proceedings.
- A CRIME WITHOUT A VICTIM: [I believe the statute of limitations has expired.] In 8th (9th?) grade, I wrote "FUCK" in winter's condensation on the window of a school transportation vehicle. Headmaster S. Atherton Middleton's perma-virgin secretary Miss Lillian Lorenz saw this and was apparently upset. I had no idea what the word meant except that I had a sense that the adults did not like students using it (I did not like the way said adults treated me). The assembled faculty interrogated me relentlessly in Assistant Headmaster Ratcliffe's small office.  I managed to finesse the equivalent of taking the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and they finally gave up trying to intimidate me into abetting them to hurt me. (They could instead have gently and respectfully inquired, to try to learn what might have motivated an articulate, highly intelligent and sensitive child to use a low-brow word. The ætiology might even have had nothing to do with the school [See Background section, supra].) My crime did have a victim: myself; from that day's instruction, I learned a lesson: the threat posed by petty, self-righteous, mean-spirited people with social power. Non carborundum legitimi.
- The school did not like that in the Yearbook we captioned the class brown-noser, Robert Muldoon's, picture: "If a man has no character he must have a method" [They replaced this with: "I will fight the good fight"]. But "notes by rote" still got thru, perhaps because they thought it was a compliment? We had captioned a picture of the football team charging forward on their playing field (above): "We are the hollow men." The faculty inquisitorial tribunal had not given the Editor-in-Chief and myself any time to prepare for our interrogation.Were they hoping to catch us telling different stories so they could nail us for lying? I had no problem with this, because I was only telling the truth → about them. (Maybe they would have burned my fragile body at the stake for steak [élève bourguignon? ~ They held this Inquisitorial Proceeding at lunch time], had I not promised to be good PR by being going to Yale?)
- I was not taught about The Holocaust at StP. When I did study The Holocaust, I immediately recognized where I had seen the showers before: in the boarding students' dormitory (just sans the gas). Because I never engaged in public nudity, I do not know what the showers were like in the "boy's locker room".
- Two things I was not taught by St. Paul's School: (1) That the experiential dimension of value existed nor, a fortiori, that there could be things or persons of value. By "of value", I mean that I could have felt about them that they deserved to exist and they would have enriched my experience of and especially joy in living. (2) The experiential dimension of nuance and context, that not all things in the world have to be one dimensional: (a) approved by adults who wielded power over me, or (b) not approved by them.
- In 11th grade, classmate Allen Moulton made me aware of two books which influenced me: (1) Albert Camus' "The Myth of Sisyphus". My engagement with this book illustrates how my spirit was impoverished: I assiduously tried to reduce to a one page deductive outline Camus' argument why not to kill oneself, instead of elucidating nuance(s) of the problematic of being mortal. This crippling of my soul has vitiated / corroded my whole life, both emotionally and intellectually. And: (2) Robert Anderson's "Tea and sympathy", which is the story of an intelligent, sensitive boy in a school like StP who gets some badly needed sexual love, samizdat, of course, from a teacher's wife. I did not.
- The net: I graduated from StP so dimensionally / categorially deprived that I was not able to take advantage of opportunities Yale might have facilitated for me in life (item: The notion never even entered my head of trying to get into Scroll and Key. I was just afraid of getting bad grades and I had no sense of self-worth). I have had to waste most of the best days of my life as a low level computer programmer human resource, when, if nurtured by an loving mother ("alma mater"), might I have become a Strobe Talbott or Fareed Zakaria?
My four years at Yale I was trying to catch up to where my preparatory schooling should have had me prepared when I matriculated. (In my off hours, perhaps guided by some fortunate genetic endowment which my childrearing and schooling did not completely succeed in taking away from me, I have endeavored for over 50 years now to build a life despite having been psychologically crippled. I have been partly successful and it has not been nearly as joyous as a person deserves in living.) I am not only disappointed, I am meta-disappointed for even having missed out on awareness of how disappointed I was and how much I had missed out on at StP. To repeat my above quote from Arnold Hauser:
What men are willing to put up with depends on what they are able to look forward to.
- I needed to not be graded so that I could immerse myself in studying and reflective thinking, instead of being distracted by having to preoccupy myself with, by wasting my time and energy on, and being dis-couraged by, trying to not get a bad grade. The notion of school as a place to liberally learn in freedom is at least as old in America as Thomas Jefferson (d. 1826).
- At StP, I always avoided anything to do with athletics, which I found repugnant and threatening, especially the "locker room" where I suspect the showers would have reminded me is Auschwitz had I known about that place then. However: "mens sana in corpore sano". I wish I had approached the Director of Athletics and said to him:
I will never know what would have happened.
"Mr. Tullai (above right), you know I am not 'into' body-contact athletics and public nudity. But I want to have a healthy body. Will you develop an exercise regimen for me, with me?"
- A perhaps: I believe Chemistry teacher Mr. Ron Mraz played during the summers in a small architecture firm where I think maybe his boyfriend (Mr. Mraz was homosexual) worked. That architecture firm was located on the North side of Chase Street, just West of Charles Street (RTKL?). Could I have asked Mr. Mraz if I could do something there during the summers or if he had some other idea how I might have in a culturally enriching way used my summer vacations? (But how could I have asked, since I did not know what culture was?) Mr. Mraz must have come from at least semi-cultured money. He had a Jaguar XK-140 (150? not 120) automobile which during one summer he asked a student in my class to start up every few days while he was away. The student was probably mentally retarded; he destroyed the car's manual transmission because he was incompetent. I think at that point Mr. Mraz got an MG-B. After I graduated from StP, I once visited Mr. Mraz's apartment which was one half of the penthouse of The Emersonian, 2502 Eutaw Place. It was magnificent, like something out of Alain Resnais's film "Last Year at Marienbad". His baby(?) grand piano was behind one of the columns in the entrance hall -- that's how classy a place it was. Not my life. Mr. Mraz's boyfriend had an apartment on the top floor of The Esplanade, across the street from the Emersonian, and the two used to spy on each other, I believe. In 7th thru 10th grades I was quartered in my parents' suburban split-level house (515 Wyngate Road) in Wakefield, off Dulaney Valley Road, abutting the Pine Ridge Golf Course. I never was happy being a split level, even though I was stuck living in one. As for Mr. Mraz, I seem to have heard he had been caught stealing antiques from the Brooklandwood mansion (he later did have an antiques shop in Alexandria, Virginia).
- A book? I was so turned off by "this place" (and, or course, my parental home, too) that even the very few times some little thing that might have been constructive for me came along I wanted no part of it because I wanted no part of it, i.e.: the school (and also of the whole
social worldScheißestückwelt (aka: stalag) of which it was a part): "uberhaupt". They burdened us students with having to read 2 books each summer recess which as far as I was concerned they should not impinged on at all, I never read the books; I faked a book report on one of them and they apparently accepted what I had given them. (Mr./Dr.? Beernink was apparently pissed that I had evaded the burden of reading a book in Spanish over one summer. Most of the students presumably read a many-word-long novel which had a lot of vocabulary words in it to have to look up in the dictionary. I found a very short (144 pages?) history book about the American Civil War on his reading list and I took it: short and few vocabulary words to torture me with. If he had wanted what he wanted he should not have given me a way to "make out". It was him against me, in the Battle of the Summer Reading Assignments.) There was one book on the generic summer reading list that might have been constructive for me had I read it: Erich Maria Remarque's "All quiet on the western front". I might have identified with it in the life situation I was stuck in. Maybe I would have got some ideas how to cope with the people I was stuck having to put up with. Maybe it would have given me a purpose in living: to study the disgusting waste of life and material matter in the less-than-world the adolts I had to put up with had made of this place between the oblivion of before being born and the oblivion (presumably) of after dying? The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away (Job 1:21), but from those who have little (me) what little they have shall be taken away (by their society).
Monday morning quarterbacking
What would have happened had I called my StP teaches to account and told them they were wasting both my and their own precious time with Charles paid-on-the-installment-plan Dickens and a latin text book with the anachronistic word "Coca-colam" (first declension feminine noun, accusative case), etc., and could they work with me so that I could accomplish something of value to myself and for them, too?
Maybe they were even better teachers than Aristotle, just they were not marketing what they were peddling in such a way as to convince me to want to buy it? Would I have been dumped like a sack of potatoes (or Adam being cast out of the Garden of Eden) in the middle of Falls Road to be run over by a motor vehicle and put out of everybody's misery had I asked for education that would have been constructive for me? which is the fantasy I often have [albeit different streets] because I was chronically threatened with punishment of unknown implications by the StP faculty, e.g.: a "bad grade" on some assignment they cooked up and stuck me with that meant nothing and sometimes even made no sense to me?
The day I awakened in April 2021 to get my second Covid shot, I had an un-dead-lined idea for a poster of Sir Winston Churchill urging everybody to win the war against Covid-19, with his famous "V for victory" sign: "V" as in "Vaccines will win the war against Covid-19". Nobody in my life cared about me having this (or ever any other) idea [because nobody ever cared about me, not just about their disowned self-doubts which they projected onto me!]. I took a very small, trepidant [due to my continuing lack of self-esteem] risk and ran off 5 copies on a computer printer, and → I took them with me to the vaccination center and handed them out to 5 of the personnel working there. Because I did that, I felt and still feel less like nothing: repeat: nothing, be it a wage-slave or a pupil (not the kind in eyeballs), than I would otherwise have felt just leaving the building like a small mammal exiting the vet after getting its rabies booster.
I should get a Varsity advertising and patriotism letter and the school a trophy, for my little graphic design idea, and if no available space, StP should move out one of the graven image lacrosse idols in the glass case in the entrance to the Brooklandwood stable for it, if said idols have not all long since been trashed by now after the epiphany of 2001. IHS
No wind blows in favor of that ship which has no port of destination.
The above quote is an old (1978) IBM motivational slogan. Part of my problem with StP was that the school did not offer me any goals. I did not buy "school spirit" and I was never adept at doing things just because somebody with power over me told me to do them (such as my parents or masters). I would have met the school half-way: Had StP proposed to me clear goals, the pursuit of which I felt would be appealing for my living, I would have pursued them for our mutual benefit. But it was not good enough for things to be meaningful only to them (if they were meaningful to them and not just unthinking repetitions of past socially conditioned behaviors), They needed to sell me on it too.
What was in it for me to read some Dickens book? What wisdom for the ages was in that what looked to me to be a mound of logorrhea, instead of, say, the sayings of Heraclitus or -- if the school was "into" competitiveness -- Sun-Tzu? What was in it for me to learn the Ascii character string: "A-s-h-u-r-b-a-n-i-p-a-l"? What was in it for me to be humiliated by a vocational arts project in ancient history class where I did not have a wood shop available nor would I be taught how to make things out of wood to successfully complete the task?
Why were these things supposed to be interesting to me, and how was learning them going to enrich my life? "Do it " was not a reason; it was a threat. Didn't I have a reasonable expectation of mutual respect and rationally negotiated peaceful coexistence with those who earned their paychecks by forming my future life as a citizen and maybe even a leader of others in a democratic country (StP was an elite school, yes?) to unquestioningly follow orders? we will give you a bad grade and wreck your life, kid!
Some small recommendations
"A liberal is a man too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel." (Robert Frost, cited by Barak Obama)
- Respect children. I could have been the teachers' peer in discourse and learning, even if not in social power (see Footnote #5, below, for details how to do this):
41 Every year Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, 'Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.' 49 'Why were you searching for me?' he asked. 'Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house [Or: be about my Father's business]?' 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them. 51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." (Luke 2:41-52)
- You reap what you sow. The Baltimore Sun newspaper reported on that in 2001. Anent: honor codery, Bertolt Brecht adonished:
"I have fought the good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith"? Cui bono? A Cat Stevens (Yusef) song asks the question: "Why am I dying to live if I am only living to die?" We are The Crusaders? Do we really want to liberate the Holy City (Jerusalem) from people who may be more civilized than ourselves?
Student: "Happy the land that breeds a hero."
Galileo: "No. Unhappy the land that needs a hero."
- Why not end the unnatural segregation of the genders? Given the circumstances back in the early 1960's, I would have greatly benefitted from "tea and sympathy". (Was/is St. Paul's School for Girls a day-nunnery?) Mens sana in corpore sano.
- Educate students to have open minds and to appreciate that Eternal Truths are transient, parochial notions, and that what endures is perspicaciously to rise above identification with changeable things. Saul of Tarsus is a great teaching example: He was a True Believer in Judaism. Then he became a True Believer in Christianity, or rather, one particular Christian sect. Cannot what happens in this world once happen again? Might Saul/Paul have become yet some other _aul: a True Believer in yet another ideology of the day, had he lived long enough to have another transformative epileptic seizure? Teach young persons to stand above the shifting sands of social customs and take everything with a grain of sand.
⇒ Gott mit uns. If the boy had gone to Gilman School, would he be saying: "Beat Gilman!"? Isn't there a message in that for his adult life, say, when he may be asked by his country's government's leaders to die for their country , and not just by his school's teachers to win a lacrosse game for their school? Or am I just living in the past and the school has long since already been doing this?
- Why not not teach agonistic practices that can deeply strengthen the young men's bodies and spirits instead of just having them drill in head-butting? And what might this be? Oriental martial arts. Win with the mind not the meatball.
"Honor code", is at root a dishonor code, is against reason and causes harm
"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." (The Lord's Prayer)
Honor code says that when the faculty thinks a student may have done something they do not like but which is not punishable in a court of law, the student should split his (her or other) personality into a part that collaborates with the faculty and a part that did the disapproved of act, by the former informing on and maybe even carrying out punishment on the latter (a snake eating its own tail). The part of the student's self thus split off has to be disowned by the hollow man".part that becomes a witness for the prosecution against the student. Where does the disowned part go? If it is totally destroyed you are left with a person who has lost part of their mind. Lose enough of it and there is no soul left except for an : a "
Add to this that students are supposed to inform on other students whom they see breaking the rules, and does this necessarily end inside the school or could it lead to the person becoming an operative of an organization such as the Stasi ("East Germany" (DDR) security service)? Vladimir Putin has reminded us: "There is no such thing as a former KGB Officer."
The split off part of the student's soul will subconsciously smolder, and, if ever given the opportunity, discharge itself, like a high-voltage static electricity charge. This could result in violence against the school, but, since the person even as an adult usually remains powerless to get revenge on the people who did it to him (her or other) and even likely had repressed the whodunnits to be able to continue endure being a student, the more likely result is either for the person to hurt somebody else → metaphorically, to: "kick or kill a cat", or, for more sensitive young persons, to take it out on themself, becoming anomic and depressed, possibly anorexic and/or suicidal, etc. Participation in a psychology experiment which secretly explored how persons react to being humiliated was the proximate cause of a mentally fragile mathematical genius Harvard undergraduate becoming The Unabomber.
Isn't the solution to the problem for the school to straightforwardly earn each student's trust by becoming a loving mother: "alma mater", a loving, accepting mother, so that students will have no reason to do anything that should trouble their conscience due to the school's behavior, but if, perhaps from bad situations in their home or social life, they do act out, they will come to a faculty member for empathic help, like a toddler who has skinned his knee seeks help from mommy whom he trusts will console and help him, not hurt him further?
On the other side, enforcing honor code should be expected to have deleterious psychological consequences on the faculty enforcers, reinforcing self-righteous, persecutory aspects of the psyche of any adult whose own childrearing involved psychological hurt, for instance by themselves in their youth having been subjected to a disciplinary school. Even if these things are repressed in ordinary daily life, these adults may take advantage of an opportunity to release their own repressed rage on the student who is the target of an honor code proceeding → again, "kick or kill a cat". If "it hurts me more than it hurts you" then I are messing with my own head to my own and other's peril; if it hurts you more than it hurts me, what other cruelty will I not be troubled about perpetrating? Alice Miller noted that the only person in Adolf Hitler's childhood home whom the father did not abuse was the family dog.
Honor code is at its core a dishonor code: it is based dishonoring students for their misadventures in living. Instead of disowning part of himself, the student could be gently guided to thematically integrate what he did or failed to do, which at the time of adjudication is largely in the past, and therefore largely irrelevant except as a sign of possible future issues → the student should be guided to integrate his past, by understanding it in a richer constructive context, into a self-reflectively reconstructed more inclusive imaginative horizon in which memory will serve to help him be smarter and wiser -- inter alia, like learning defensive driving. (Of course, this assumes what the student did was less than rationally advisable, and not just something the school administration did not like, in which latter case the school should set a good example of enlightened tolerance.) Build up, not tear down. Who does not want to better themselves if it does not hurt them to do so? (Yes, some have been so traumatized that they are self-destructive; they need additional rehabilitative support)
Take the words seriously: Be a loving/nurturing mother: "alma mater"! I certainly could have used one (See Background section, above). If a student has done something horrific and not just some faux pas cooked up and/or caused by the school, and action needs to be taken to prevent the student from doing further harm to themselves or to others, there is not need to extract a confession first to mess with the kid's head. Just present the evidence to the defendant and enforce extramural (public) laws which are clearly for the benefit of all persons, including the student, the school, and the broader extramural social world. If the decision is wrong, there should be remediation, or, worst case, the student's psychological integrity has not been vitiated: he still believes his own thoughts, not manipulations, just also that he was hurt unjustly. In turn the rules should be developed with the students, without them operating under intimidation or expectation that they will follow some unrealistic set of values like romanticized Crusader-mind, or the notorious dictum which I did not learn at StP: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
As for students cheating on ETS examinations and such, how can anyone justify anti-social objectifying classification of living persons, like the USDA classifies animal carcasses (right)? Maybe you've just got to console the students and offer empathy for misfortunate conditions in the larger adult world that no school has the power to put an end to or to protect its students from. We're deeply sorry about things we can't do anything about, kids. We do love you even if we cannot stop the larger society from mistreating you with such things as SAT's; we are committed to doing the best anyone can to protect and help you.
If one sincerely wants persons to be virtuous, make what is virtuous be more pleasurable for them, and easier for them to do, than any other alternative. "H.L. Mencken's definition of Puritanism[:] the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.'" (Paul Krugman, NYT OpEd, 19 Mar 2021)
The Student Council
When I was a student at StP, I did not give thought to the "Student Council". I never knew what it really was; I had just heard the name a few times. This day, 10 April 2021, I went looking in the 1964 yearbook again (thank you, Classmates.com!), thinking I would find an "Honor Code" student activity, and I figured out that had to be: the "Student Council".
The student council is an organization in which the students cooperate with the faculty to promote the moral welfare of the student body and of the school as a whole. The members are chosen by popular vote [Aside: I (BMcC[18-11-46-503]) never voted or knew or would have cared there was a vote, because I felt group activities in general were deindividuating / depersonalizing].... The student council is a court which tries students accused of honor violations.... But the student council also performs a preventative function, attempting to help students to act honestly so that they will not have to come later to trial for misdemeanors. The student council does a great service for the school. (p.102)
In other words, the Student Council was a group of voluntary: inmates policing the inmates, indoctrinating and homologizing those whose behavior did not conform to the institution's rules, thus helping them to have only politically correct thoughts (Ger.: "Funktionshäftlinge").
Therefore: I was actually being honored by the Faculty when they subjected me to two Inquisitorial Proceedings, perhaps because I was too big a fish for the Student Council to fry, perhaps because my putative infractions transcended the microscopic dimensionality of their honor code vector space, perhaps because my infractions were too threatening to the regime to be left to the opposed the cult of school spirit", I suspect I was a known heretic.[who, for all I know, may have naively thought they were just doing good?] to possibly screw up, or some combination thereof? Since I openly "
Give the Faculty credit where credit was due: They did not proceed in my first show trial without a "voluntary" confession. And in the second show trial they either got the point that one of their own had been negligent by not adequately monitoring the prisoners, or else they didn't want to face the PR consequences of executing a politically valuable prisoner (also: for all his limitations, my father might not have been happy with that, and, being a marketing manager, he knew something about dealing with people and institutions). Today I am honored to not have been thrown to the IHS, like Pontius Pilate let the mob vote on Jesus Christ.
Aside: It is not inconceivable that one (two?) of my three classmates on the Student Council was somewhat jaded about the whole honor code shtick. Unlikely but possible. In Abel Gance's silent film, "Napoleon", there are two clerks in the office of The Terror whom the film calls: "Eaters of Documents": They save persons from the guillotine by masticating and swallowing their dossiers.
A tale of two teachers
Reference lost, but a true story from Quora: A young boy had attended an elementary school which had been benign for him. His first day in junior high school, his first period in science class, he felt hurt by the science teacher who got off on being tough [I forget exactly what the teacher did, but you, my reader, can imagine for yourself].
The boy was in tears, and (and this is the part I do not understand, namely: how he ever found a sympathetic teacher in school:) he went to his English teacher, who had the memorable name: Mrs. Dean. In despair, he asked Mrs. Dean if this was what he had to look ahead (but, obviously, not forward) to for the rest of his life [now that, no longer in elementary school, he was in the real world] and if he had just better get used to it. Mrs. Dean told him that what he had experienced was not acceptable and that if any teacher ever did it to him again, he should tell the teacher it was not right. End of story.
Aside: One reason I am calling St. Paul's School to an accounting is that, by hook or by crook and at whatever cost to my soul and my body, I was on the Headmaster's list: I was an academic winner, not some good-for-nothing the school would manage to get admitted to Sometime Partyboys College. The school knew I was not nothing. Therefore, for me to say the academics were not very enlightening cannot be dismissed as just ineptitude and laziness.
I would love to also have been a Marty Cain, so that I could have told everybody: "School spirit is just faculty PR." I even hypothesize at least a few of the boys the school would cast as "jocks" were cynical enough to have some notion that false quote was true, and that they were just playing the game to get along, e.g., per suggestive evidence from both sides of Mr. Fertig's math class (supra). There apparently were things classmates with lower I.Q.'s than me knew that made them smarter in life, not in "blue books", than me, for whom education about life came only from "my" teache[r]s.
Through decades of study and with much effort and late in life I may be learning things that came to some other students from lower places, far more cheaply and much earlier. Nacht und nebel. To borrow a phrase from my tragic first-line computer programming manager (1974-76) at Mercantile Safe Deposit and Trust Company:
"They put me off at the wrong stop when I was born." (Doug Schaff)
Two American History lessons (incl.: The United States Declaration of Independence)
"Did the paper you submitted in school change how the teacher thought about the world?" (Quote from possibly imperfect memory of question Head of Univ. of Chicago's Writing Program asks PhD candidates trying to get journal articles published)
When I was a young person that was a target of testing and grading, aka: student, "American History" was something I avoided as best I could, because all it was for me was just one more opportunity to get a bad grade for failing to do something one of my masters cooked up to test me on, concerning which they had aroused in me no interest. Nobody was teaching me about the big sex scandal in the Brooklandwood mansion → in the century (above), either.
The sex scandal in the Brooklandwood mansion is an Amerian history lesson parochial to StP. The second is universal and far more important. Are young persons to study the United States Declaration of Independence?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That never meant anything to me. It was just words, like the Dickens. But this day (+2021.07.31) I clearly saw this big invisible elephant in the room: For teachers to grade students is a modern analog to pricing human beings for sale on a slave market auction block. Students have no right to life or liberty or, a fortiori, the pursuit of their happiness if they are chained to doing things to get graded like slabs of meat to determine their market price. Would an American History teacher dare treat The President of The United States, or his Headmaster, or even just his brother or sister or wife as a thing (object) to be graded like meat or mineral ore, not as human beings to be respectfully engaged as equals in peer discourse? Now that I see it (which has taken me almost 60 years), isn't the massive existential contradication here -- saying one thing but doing the opposite -- obvious? Let us teach young persons the Declaration of Independence as their daily living, not just as a collection of Ascii character strings. Assignment:
"Write a short paper comparing your experiences in daily living with the words cited above from the Declaration of Independence. Include your judgment about this assignment, itself, and what you think and feel should be done about and with it."
Proposal to improve education while saving costs; StP could set a groundbreaking example and publish important research
"Kids retain 5 percent of what they hear and 10 percent of what they read but 80 percent of what they do and 90 percent of what they teach." (Robert Ballard)
Most of what students do is wasted effort (computer programming acronym: "GIGO" -- garbage in, garbage out). They do assignments which as soon as they get graded go in trash cans, yes? Instead of all this waste, why not deploy the bright, educationally oriented students as the teachers for the lower grades? They could do the job, probably better than the generally less intelligent adults whom schools have to pay to do it in the current pedagogical regime. And these teacher-students would learn great stuff by the doing (we know that "muscle memory" is the best kind, not sitting in a hard wood chair memorizing "A-s-h-u-r-b-a-n-i-p-a-l"), like how to teach and the structure of interpersonal communication in sometimes difficult situations, not just how to make little marks in circles on answer sheets with No. 2 pencils. And what could they write term papers on? Self-reflection on communication in educational process in social life.
I have no doubt that my classmate Allen Moulton who went from StP to The Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT) could have taught Algebra when he was teaching himself the Calculus, yes? As for less academically inclined students, why waste their time teaching them headbutting, when they could be volunteering in hospices and SPCA's? Wouldn't that be even more meaningful than the kids cooking up dog and pony shows ("theater arts") for their parents to pretend to be impressed by when few of them will become Sir Laurence Oliviers?
It would be easy. It would save money. It would be publishable. (Aside: Do you StP might have got more value out of me had the school thought about what it was doing? Might I have become then already something of the person I have become in the subsequent 55 years, with much more joy in my life, and contributing to the teche[r]s continuing education, too? A win-win instead of negative sum game?)
"Why are you doing this to me?" (last words of a woman doctor being murdered by an intruder in a stairway in New York's Bellevue Hospital, recorded on surveillance camera; ref. lost)
At some point I saw a film which expressed the hope I always at least pre-thematically had in life, Jean Renoir's: "The Grand Illusion" (1937). It is the story of two French officers who were prisoners of war in The War to End All Wars (World War I). Because they were officers, the story does not apply to myself, who was/am just a Zek.
The two officers were treated admirably well by their German captors. But they were determined to escape. By hook and by crook, and one of them badly limping, as the film nears its end, the two comrades approach the Swiss border and if they make it across, safety. A German patrol spots them, and the soldiers raise their rifles and take aim at their two easy targets who are crossing a vast snow covered field with no border markings.
The soldiers' Officer commands: "Hold your fire! They are over the border. The war is over for them. And so much the better for them." The grand illusion. What I have always hoped: that my sufferings (among them, being subjected to unenlightenment (tenebrae mentium tenebra orbis) and testing on it by StP masters and their extramural avatars, would end before I ended and I would at last enjoy living before it was too late for me.
- (A) Original email from myself to Dr. Huang:
Greetings, Dr. Huang!
Let me introduce myself. I graduated first in my class at St; Paul's School for Boys in the class of 1964 for the cumulative 4 years of high school. (Allen Moulton was first in the senior year.) I went on to attend Yale College where I graduated 1968 "Honors with exceptional distinction in philosophy." I later received a 2nd class doctorate (Ed.D.) at Teachers College Columbia University with a dissertation: "Communication: The Social Matrix of Supervision of Psychotherapy" (1994; UMI #9511056).
I would like to talk with you about my experience at the school (which I see is now your school), 1958-1964. This is important to me and I think it might be interesting to yourself as an educator and also as head of the school.
I myself am aging, now 74 years old. Especially due to Covid-19, life is tenuous.
If you would have some time to talk with me on the phone, I will welcome opportunity to share with you my thoughts and feelings about my experience from the years I attended the school..
Respectfully, and hoping this inquiry finds you well in the current time of pandemic,
Bradford McCormick, Ed.D.
19 Stanwood Road
Mount Kisco, New York 10549
914.471.7570 (If calling this number, I am not always available so kindly leave a message with return number and preferred time of reply)
- (B) Email from myself to Headmaster (editted to remove irrelevant email headers and to reformat the text; text itself unchanged):
Date: Tue, 07 Jul 2020 10:01:56 -0400
From: Brad McCormick <email@example.com>
Subject: Growth v. cheering ~ Your recent Message
I was in class of '64 -- look me up in the files if such still exist.
In your recent Message, I read "a safe place for all students", "the privilege of supporting young people in their growth and development", but also "a little loud during athletic contests, as I join you in cheering [Editor note: See example StP cheering crowd, above] on our boys in blue and gold."
I was perhaps the first and maybe even the only student to ever engage in passive resistance to cheer rallies. As a student I was required to attend but I was tolerated to stand silently sullenly at the back of the upper school courtyard during the proceedings. I don't know if you know such books as Elias Canetti's "Crowds and Power". Cheer rallies were events where the students were homogenized into parts of a mass (not the religious kind). "the boys"? My father was in the WWII Army Air Corps, and "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori"
I would call myself the School's bad unconscious. I respectfuly submit that a person cannot simultaneously hold values of safety and growth (etc.) for young persons and also celebrate contact athletics / cheer rallies, unless one engages in what psychoanalysts call "splitting". My teachers were "masters" and, in retrospect I do not relate to having been a member of a subservient species. Hopefuly students today are indeed treated with the dignity which accrues to peers in discourse (ref. Jurgen Habermas).
Football and lacrosse seemed to me subhuman brutish things worthy not of Crusaders (who were not always exactly saints), but of how Atilla's men were characterized by the civilized albeit decadant Romans. Locker room nudity of pubsescent males? Two students in my class were expelled in 7th grade, I believe -- although I did not know sex existed at that time --, for having oral sex in the middle school boy's restroom. Hypocrisy + in, as I would find later at Yale, in loco parentis (which I translate as parents are insane).
Hopefully you are taking the helm of a *very* differnt institution than the one I attended, where I have long had fantasies of Saul of Tarsus hitting his head a lot harder when he fell off his horse on Damascus Road. I sincerely hope students are respected as individual persons today. Certainly the insstitution I attended knew nothing of Maria Montessori or John Dewey.
Thank you for making your email adress available so that I could perhaps preach to you (St. Paul's School made me an atheist and one of the few decent things about my experience there was religious freedom for both students and faculty who elected to exercise it -- later in life I have mellowed to be agnostic and antitheistic).
Best wishes! May your tenure be as, in Homer's Odyssey, were Odysseus's golden years of peace after he completed the teaching assingment which a god -- Athena? -- assiged to him! Keep well!
brad mccormick, Ed.D., StP '64
- (C) Since I had sent Dr. Huang the present statement prior to our meeting on 08 February, I had prepared some talking points for the meeting itself:
What is my purpose [in contacting Dr. Huang? To find someone at the school who would listen to and understand what I had to share, even if not agree with me.] Bear witness. [Elie Wiesel said: "Do not compare! All suffering is intolerable." I consider myself a holocaust (lower-case "h") survivor.]
Imagination: "Other than chance encounters, we can only encounter in reality that which we have previously encountered in fantasy." (Gordon Hirshhorn) [My imagination was not cultivated at the school.]
"The city is the place of availabilities. It is the place where a small boy, as he walks through it, may see something that will tell him what he wants to do his whole life." (Louis Kahn)
What should have been expected of St. Paul's School? [I have a friend who is a highly successful government computer consultant, whose parents perhaps never even got to junior high school. They could not properly raise him in terms of education and such. They did their best and it was good enough: They supported him forming himself. They said to him, and meant it:] "Tom, do what you believe is right You will make mistakes. We stand behind you." [I think the faculty of StP, most if not all of whom were college educated and a few with more advanced degrees, could have done at least as well.]
English class readings were largely meaningless to me. Example of literature that is meaningful for me, the ending of Part I of Hermann Broch's "The Sleepwalkers", which is an antipode to Who, What, Where and Why questions, Hidden meanings and Surprise endings:] "With the material for character construction with which the reader has been provided, he can figure out the rest for himself." (Hermann Broch)
"I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain." (John Adams) [With great difficulty I traversed in one generation from a father who died from liver cancer due to having worked in a lead paint factory as a teenager, to the end of John Adams's hierarchy of values. For decades, I have known the title of a great American novel I never expect to write: "" (cf.: Erich von Stroheim's silent film: "Greed").]
I would welcome to give a history lecture to the St. Paul's Schools faculty. [I anticipate my statement here will be archived appropriately by the school, for study and research.]
- (D) Song sung a capella by the
teenteamage students as a non-sacramental mass, to self-stimulate their enthusiasm for the competitive body-contact athletic teams. I vaguely seem to recall this was called the school's "Fight song", as if bellicosity was something to be proud of?
Probably followed by group synchronized cheering noises, not sure, but maybe: "Rah! Rah! Rah!"? [As noted above, I (BMcC[18-11-46-503]) opposed the cult of school spirit.]
Come on now, Saint Paul's, / let's win this ball game! / Let's write it down in his toe ree! / Our hearts and vio ces will rise [←this word not certain; might be: "cheer"?] in tri umph, / as we march to vic tor ee! / For ever! / Cheer for Saint Paul's, our alma mater! / We will be al ways true and bold! / And we'll fight, fight, fight for ever, / for The Blue and Gold!"
- (E) The limits of testing. Testing places a person at a point on an existing metric. A new idea is by definition something that is outside the bounds of the known, i.e., the whole existing metric space. Therefore a person who has a new idea cannot appropriately be tested because the new idea does not have a place within the existing metric space but rather extends that space. A person, no matter how young (or old) who has a new idea cannot rightly be graded, only respected. Conversely, grading can be applied to anyone who does not have a new idea, for instance the Headmaster of a school, or the parent of a child. Whether grading should ever be applied to any living human being as opposed to, e.g., a dead animal carcass (USDA) is, of course, a different question. If grading is applied to St. Paul's School for Boys Headmaster S. Atherton Middleton, he gets an A+ for my classmate Marty Cain because Mr. Cain went on at Harvard to do the almost impossible: beating Princeton in lacrosse for the first time in 43 years. He gets an F for me (BMcC[18-11-46-503]), in regard to both academics and humanity, for reasons cited above.
- (F) Improved pedagogy 101. Physics: Give the students the questions and the answers. Their assignment is to produce a detailed audit log showing how the given facts lead to the answer or why they could not do this. Some possibilities: (1) Could not reproduce the answer but here is what I got and how I got it, or (2) Experiment required a piece of capital equipment I did not have and did not have authorization to purchase. English: Have the students read the first half of the book and write their own ending to it; there is no right or wrong answer. Alternative: Give them the list and description of the characters and have them write a whole book about them; again, no right or wrong answer.
A scientist wrote (The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert, +2022.06.13, p. 24):
"I want to know what it is like for a bat to be bat," [the philosopher Thomas] Nagel insisted. "Yet if I try to imagine this, I am restricted to the resources of my own mind, and those resources are inadequate. The question "What is it like to be a bat?," he concluded, is one that people will never answer; it lies "beyond our ablility to conceive."