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."
"What men are willing to put up with depends on what they are able to look forward to." (Arnold Hauser)
"It takes a licking and keeps on ticking." (Timex Corporation)
"Sex is a normal part of life" (New York City Department of Public Health)
"The fathers ask about the rugby, and the mothers ask about the buggery." (BBC interview of a British public school graduate, common joke about parents selecting a school for their son. You must watch this: Click here! ~ Aside: The interviewer is a very attractive young lady: what St. Paul's Illiberal Day Carcel for Pubescent Male Virgins except for omerta-sanitary-services-for-jocks and its Head master, Mr. S. Atherton Middleton deprived me of!)
- I never entered the boys' locker room in the "gym", for similar reasons. I now believe that gender apartheid 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.")
- 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.
- 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). Ghoulish faces of grown men who since they could not earn respect took it out on threatening children who could not fight back: The ass—embled 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 have had nothing to do with the school [See Background section, supra], but, obviously: whatever the reason, the faculty should have fixed it, not tried to harm me for having reacted to it, so that I would have no longer had reason to speak low-brow words but instead have had good reasons to freely sing hymns of praise to them.) My crime did have a victim: myself; from that day's instruction, I learned a lesson: the magnitude of the threat posed to me by petty, self-righteous, mean, mean-spirited people with social power. They could have won: by breaking the bones and crushing the internal organs of a helpless child, sending his ravaged body to a hospital or morgue, because he wrote a word they did not like chidren to say in condensation on a school transportation vehicle window. Ecce homines!
- The school did not like that in the Yearbook we captioned the class brown-noser'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?)
left), had told the Yearbook staff he was too busy to review Yearbook pages and I had told him something — I have by now forgotten my specific words but I remembered them clearly then — that we would do what we would do. He had been put on notice and failed to take appropriate measures, so he got what he asked for. I was confident that I was right and the faculty were wrong and, under interrogation, I stood my ground. They backed off and only punished me by barring me from attending graduation ("Commencement") ceremony. [Aside: I also did not attend "my" Yale graduation: In my "cap and gown", I collected over $130 USD for Quaker Vietnam war relief at the gate to the "Old Campus" nearest to the Yale Post Office.]
- 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.
What men are willing to put up with depends on what they are able to look forward to.
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?"
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!
"A liberal is a man too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel." (Robert Frost, cited by Barak Obama)
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)
"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."
"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)
"If you want kids to tell you the truth when they do things you don't like, than sincerely promise to not puniish them. If you want to punish kids for doing things you don't like, then do not ask they to tattle on themselves. Do not pervert the child's soul by making the child harm his soul himself." (BMcC[18-11-46-503])
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)
Let me give an example, the Inquisitorial Proceeding to which the school subjected me (above) because I wrote "FUCK" in winter's fog on a school transportation vehicle window. (So what?) If the school did not want kids to use "obscenity" words, then the school should have organized school life in such a way that no student would ever have the least reason to even think of, or a fortiori, actually use, one of those words. But it you are self-righteous sadists who lust to get off on making young persons suffer, then you do as was done to me: you create an environment the kid has rational reason to dislike and one way the young person may express their anger and frustration is by using those words he knows you don't like. Then you get your jollies by punishing the student for "misbehaving", i.e.: for reasonably reacting to what what the school is doing to him: blame the victim → subject the young person to a psychologically destructive "double-bind". Third alternative: Do the thing the kid doesn't like to him, but then encourage him to say "obscenity " words until he tires himself out if that's what he wants to do because it is an objectively harmless way for the kid to vent his well earned anger and frustration at an institution which refuses to do right by him. (THis should hav ebeen too obvious to have needed explicating here.)
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 Ger.: "Funktionshäftlinge").: 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 (
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 [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 "opposed the cult of school spirit", I suspect I was a known heretic.
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 , like Pontius Pilate let the mob vote on Jesus Christ. IHS
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.
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)
"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."
And yet a third item: Of course I was not so gullible as to take Mr. Clark's "advanced placement" American History course. I did not care about America (I had it in St. Paul's during the day and at home at night). I did not care about History which was just memorizing names, dates and places which were all in Encyclopedia Americana or the textbook. Mr. Clark struck me as the most soulless disciplinarian of all the masters in the school: to be avoided if at all possible. So I took American History for jocks taught by Coach Tullai.
For decades after graduating I had bad dreams of my diploma being revoked (a start of falling dominos...) because I never turned in my term paper (did we have one in that class?). Now, here is the irony: Ca. 1995, by chance, I made a major sholarly discovery in Amerian History: the story of the "star and bars" insignia on all U.S. military aircraft since 1943 (right). I doubt any other student in the history of the school ever did; In Mr. Clark's class they probably wrote papers for the trash can after he had graded them. But I turned in my term paper 30 years too late: "F"! (It was only in the 1980s that I learned Marshall McLuhan's first law: "The medium is the message", by studying under one of his closest friends, Prof. Louis Forsdale; but I had implicitly learned that lesson at St. Paul's: School was not primarily even about learning course material but about doing ass—ignments to dead—lines: "obedience training".)
"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?)
The New York Times <firstname.lastname@example.org>
11:23 AM (24 minutes ago) [+2022.07.27]
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Bradford McCormick | New York
@David H From you I hear SANITY, Sir! Russians love their country just like American love country. It's all a matter of the GPS coordinates of the birth canal the kid came out of. I attended a "prep" school, not Dalton like Mr. Blinken. Mr. Blinken needs to be assigned to write an essay nobody in the school I went to was assigned. My school's chief rival was Gilman School. The faculty got my school' kids all intoxicated before lacrosse games on testosterone and adrenaline, shouting: "Beat Gilman!" They never assigned the kids to write an essay: "Do students at Gilman School shout 'Beat Gilman!'? If yes, why. If no, why not. Your paper is due on my desk Friday at 10AM. Class dismissed." [Aside: Esprit d'escalier. I should have written"Friday at 10AM, before the big game."]
Prisons are made for men by men. St. Paul's School for Boys made me be a student, a pupil, a grade-slave. It was indeed a preparatory institution. The school prepared me for the adult economy to make me be an employee, a wage-slave. I was never a free person. I could never awaken in the morning with the openness to self-accountably, creatively shape my coming day. Iacta erat alea: the curriciulum was defined. I paid dearly for not going along with it, starting with being frozen out from what jocks got. I never had an alma mater (loving mother).
With your endless tests and grades and ass—ignments, you reduced the size of my world of life ("Lifeworld") to the paltry constraint of notes by rote pupildom. Had I been educated in a medieval monastery my world would have been much larger and richer: The Roman Catholic Christian Creation. Instead it was a stifling claustrophobic prison only relatively richer richer than the man who once was placed in pitch black solitary confinement in Alcatraz for months and kept himself from going insane by having ripped one button off his prison uniform, throwing it in the blackness at random, crawling around for hours trying to find it in the blackness and, once he found it, throwing it again.
I learned little except how stifling adolts(spelling intended) wielding power over me were and what I had to look ahead but not forward to in living under them until I would die. The schoolt may have been fine for other students, especially those who ran around in the brutalized open space of the football/lacrosse field and the idols: the shiny plated team victory trophy cups, and who got omerta sanitary services. I got nothing except being subjected to ass—ignments and testing. I needed empathic and preferably educated adults who would offer me life since my parents had the depth of Wonder Bread. But you didn't, either. Each new day I learn more of how much what could have been my life was wasted by St. Paul's Illiberal Day Carcel for Pubescent Male Virgins except for omerta-sanitary-services-for-jocks.
Prisons are made for men by men. Damn you all for having consignd me to a lonely Purgatory in this world.
"If you ask the question which I am trying to answer, then that means you do not know what I am telling you now." (Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, 2023)
This is not what StP was about for me. The teachers asked me questions to which they knew the answers to peremptorily probe what was in my soul. Had they respectfully asked me if I knew such and such, having given me security assurances that no harm would accrue to me whatever the truth, I would have answered them honestly.
Could we not then have proceeded to see if both of us could learn and learn from each other? Or did the teachers have no interest in learning from me (or in learning anything)? I ask this question; how do you respond.
I deeply regret not probing them like they probed me. I know better now, because in the light of later experience and learning I have reflected on what happened and concluded it was not constructive (although, as you can see here, it was instructive, in a way they did not intend). Esprit d'escalier. What would have happened? (speculation here; counter-evidence here)
A lot of he curriculum was apparently trying to achieve ends by means but then functionally forgetting the end and blinkeredly focusing on the means as if they were the end which they were not. What was the point of having me read a Charles Dickens novel? To have me learn to read Dickens novels? What a silly goal, isn't it? But it would be a goal. Then I should have been taught startegies and tactics to optimize my power to read a Dickens novel: Why read it? How best to accomplish that? It was just being tested on "it' but what was "it" other than what I was going to e tested on?
Or was the goal to teach me how to read intelligently, a more generally applicable and valuable skill, and you were just using the Dickend novel as the means to that end. Then if I failed at "doing" the Dickens novel, I only failing at accomplishing the means, not the end. If the means then so what? Why not change the means to one tha would work for me since the means does not matter, just the end? This was not even tried. What the Dickens?
I was so turned off by all this and by, for onemore examle, another thing: read two books over your summer vacation. What for? Why? It would make me better reader? But if I just resented it then it wa not going to accomplish that goal. There may actually have been one book on the reading list that might have been of value and interest for me: "All quiet on the Western front". I don't know, but nobody tried to sell me on it. I was the consumer: Buy this and that product. Why? Because we wlll punish you if you don't.
What was going on if anything in the teachers' heads? Did they treat their mothers, their fathers, their sex partners (did they do sex? they didn't tell me), Mr. Middleton and potential donors to the school the way they wtreated me? If not then how did they treat them? And why did they treat me the one way and them the other way? I was just a kid so they could get away with this. But these are questions I should have been asking you and getting honest respectful answers, and, if you needed to grade me, an "A" for taking self-accountable inititive to remediate my ignorance about the world i lives in and isn't that what educaiton should be about: to understand one's world? Virtue begins at home. I should have been a better student: of you. Surely as teachers: facilitators of learning ,you want to be studied; otherwise you would be obstacles to your purpose in ife or at least in work, namely, to facilitate learning.
I want always to dig deeper now that I know there is depth, which StP did not teach me. Answering questions is sometimes but not alwas important. Often it's more important ot evaluate the value of the quesions. Often it's even more important what quetions are being asked and why, and what questions are not being asked and why not. Let's learn what quetions we chould b asking, and again, tha includes questions about: you.
Do you know about the duckrabbit? Now you do (right). Is it a duck or is it a rabbit? You saw me as an object to continually test to see if you could make me fail some way or another. You could instead of seen me as an opportunity to coach, mentor, "alma mater" me up to greatness and joyousness, and not cared if I might hve failed at anything else which you would not have bothered to do to me. A BMW does not need to be good at pulling a plow. You saw a rabbit. I needed to be seen a a duck, or even better to be seen in an overarching perpective which constellated the whole social world of winning and loing, ducks and rabbits, teachers and students... as just raw material from which for me to build something better.
What were you hunting for? I wonder if maybe you had no purpose at all except to repeat what you did yesterday because it was what you repeated the day before and on and on because you did it the day before because you did it the day before that... and why did you do anything? I guess you had an itch so you scratehed it and maybe that leads to the boys locker room? Were you all just running on autopilot except for winning lacrosses games and collecting tuition payments so you could win more lacrosse games and collect more tuition payments so you could....? When I stopped writing cursive script, what was there left for Mr. Rentko to do in a classroom to earn his paycheck since he had no uncrossed 'i's or undotted 't's to take points off for? Hello? ☏
"You need very good training in secodary schools otherwise you may never discover that you have this ability." (John von Neumann)
Both myself and my time were treated as having little of value and consequently I became of little value and my life and my time were wasted by the school. Ass—ignments. Not just rote learning, but rote teachers, who emotionally often resembled the concrete blocks of the classroom wall but pedagogically, not to deign to speak of intellectually (that is a 6 syllable word), resembled the mimeograph machine. The school made me be a superficial person. Waste. Let me repeat my earlier quote from Robert Ballard: "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." The school was concernad about my "social adjustment" to presumably reduce me to being no "better" than the faculty were; well I could have been more and you did not completely succeed. As I wrote in the yearbook: "He opposed the cult of school spirit". Dr. Trusty has confessed or rather boasted (Appendix B) that while his body has matured, his attained cultural level has apparently has not grown apace: that he can't help cheering a little loudly for the team. Surely, having graduated from this school's arch rival school, he has had experience with cultural relativism: reflection shows that group loyalties are not grounded in reason but are mere empirical accidents of geolocation which, like all facts, are value neutral.
I have zero tolerance for Who What When Where questions. A Dickens novel with its too many characters doing too many things is nightmarish for me. We learned algebra in 9th grade. All characters do something. They are substitution instances in a few formulas. Let's learn the forulas not a list of substitution values for the variables. What the Dickens? He wa a mid-brow author: above
In adult life I learned some new formulas, one of the very best being that a certain character goes out in the street hoping to meet a friend: "But of course he does not meet him." Good! I have learned that romantic expections can be disappointed. It's important to not be duped by romantic expectations such as the home team winning some competitive athletic game. The formula there: one team competes against anohter team with the result that one team or the other wins or it's a tie. Next topic. Obviously it matters if you own the team then it's important to keep up ticket sales.
Mr. Dickens was bourgeois mid-brow writing anyway: above romance novels and below serious work. An old R. Crumb cartoon: A man asks his wif if the ris anything good on the television tonite. She replies: "Why bother?" Why bother about Mr. Dickens? StP had me so turned off to everything that there was one book on the summer obilgatory reading list that might have had some value: "All quiet of the Western Front". but since it would have been an ass—ignment, I wnted no part of it. That's how much SrP inspired me to learn. Why bother? My whole life was all just something for the faculty to grade.
I have no idea what went on in the boys' pub[l]ic nudity ("locker") room with its showers that looked like they were from Auschwitz. But let me imagine a best case: a jock bragging to his teamates that he had scored, i.e.: ejaculated into the vagina of a female student from a different prep school, another gender apartheid pedagogical institution but for the other normative gender (girls). Pathetic, yes? Of course I did not find any reason to live in my condition of involuntary celibacy; but I would have thrived on something different and more civilized: playful erotic double entendres in everything: connoisseurship of subtle eroticization of all the aspects of daily life. Instead of "school spirit", erotic play. Ejaculation being an end perhaps like washing the dishes at the end of a meal.
The school was a totalitarian dictatorshp of the Faculty. Like in Stalinist Russia, students were supposed to spy and squeal on each other ("Honor Code"). The regime even had its 5, or as it were 6 or 7 Year Plan: The Curriculum. And their secret interrogations like the KGB and CIA, to two of which they subjected me. (I wonder what the proceedings were for the 3 boys in 7th grade who were caught having oral sex in the toilet room in the Middle School? Or the kid who broke the code of omerta in 2001?)
I stood up one time for dignity and freedom, and won: Mr. Rentko's attempt to crush my creative spirit in reaction to me choosing to not write cursive script. I had evaded the faculty's power to take off students' points for failing to dot 't's and cross 'i's. But in the end The Middleton Regime easily absorbed a little dissent from one of its subjects, like a tiny space probe falling into the suffocating atmosphere of the boated gas planet Jupiter.
In the whole history of St. Paul's School, I have found only one alumnus who did anything of cultural value: the photographer A. Audrey Bodine. Nobody else did anything that mattered and they probably secretly knew it. But they could not live with that.
So they cooked up something to pretend mattered and they successfully fell for their own propaganda: varsity competitive athletics. If the coach guided the team to victory, he mattered. If a kid threw the winning pass, he mattered → in an activity that did not matter. They were losers who succeeded in fancying themselves winners.
To paraphrase Friedrich Nietzsche: it was not matter what people believe in, so long as they truly believe they believe it. That's why hundreds of people drank Jim Jones's Kool Ade in Jonsetown, why parents scream cheering for their kids in the big game, you name it — the "what" does not matter, just the believing it's important, whatever it is. What does it matter to undertand you are being starved to death in solitary confinement if you can't escape? It just makes you unhappy to not believe you are enjoying eternal bliss in paradise.
"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)
"There is a heppy land, fur, fur away." (Krazy Kat)
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.
There is one educational institution from which I will never graduate although I am always enrolled: The School of Hard Knocks. St. Paul's Illiberal Day Carcel for Pubescent Male Virgins except-for-omerta-sanitary-services-for-jocks was my last chance to have a full, satiffying life: an alma mater to give me what my biological mother could not. Why not cry, Rrose Sélavy?
|Demerit||A mark given to someone, especially a student in a school, because they have done something wrong or broken a rule. (Cambridge Dictionary)|
|Form||In the U.K., a class of school children or a group of classes of children of a similar age. (Cambridge Dictionary) Tenth grade in a U.S. public school was Fourth Form at StP (my class)|
|Headmaster||A person who is the leader of a private school. (Cambridge Dictionary)|
|Master||A male school teacher. (Cambridge Dictionary)|
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)
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
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 the teachers already knew but weren't telling us so we had to reinvent the wheel instead if innovating new uses for it:] "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.
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.] Why did the faculty want to get pubescent males all aggressively hormonal? The more ignorant they are,the more likely males will seek fulfillment in losing life fighting for their country not in gaining life in peaceful study and artistic and scientific creation. Go team! Beat Gilman!
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!"
To write precisely, St. Paul's School did not impoverish my young soul, because from one to whom nothing has been given, there is nothing to be taken away. (BMcC)
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."