Conversation that never occurred
"I have fought the good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith." (St. Paul's School motto)
"What men are willing to put up with depends on what they are able to look forward to." (Arnold Hauser)
Mr. S. Atherton Middleton died and got his just deserts and went to hell. God let me fashion his punishment. I tried to be fair about it. I had him immediately castrated, including his penis not just his testicles, all of which, of course, I fed him for lunch. Then I set him to alternately writing in school boy script and singing in full school spirit mode the St. Paul's School for Boys "fight song", forever. Many quadrillions of years later, somebody came by and asked him how he liked being in hell. His response: "You mean I'm not in heaven?"
How to describe St. Paul's Day Carcel for Pubescent Male Virgins except-for-omerta-sex-for-jocks? It was beneath language, but I can try: Stultifying, repressive, dank, miasmic, uncaring, soulless, doltish, wretched, repulsive, humiliating, stifling, time-wasting, meaningless, pointless, hopeless, futile, aimless, repetitive, degrading.... What was its summun bonum? Beating Gilman in gladiatorial head-butting (aka: lacrosse). The teachers were: Self-important, self-righteous, disciplinarian, ignorant, uncaring, vengeful, thick, threatening.... When there was not enough reality to completely stifle me, they cooked up more fake reality: ass-ignments and tests on which they graded me like the USDA grades dead animal carcesses → prigs, prudes, pompous asses, philistines, uncouth, disrespectful [i.e.: disrespectful of me], notes-by-rote Peter Ramus-its. They were dialtones on two legs☏. They were my "masters". And they ignoranced and mistreated me so badly that they didn't even teach me how badly they were ignorancing and mistreating me. As hard as it may be to imagine, this place was part of the 20th Century CE: For me, (BMcC[18-11-46-503]) albeit apparently not for other students, It was Auschwitz lite卐.
They were destroying my soul, like doctors use radiation to destroy a person's immune system (but doctors do it to cure a cancer, not to infuse one). Since I did not know and could not imagine anything could be better in life I put up with it and I put up with them but I never liked any of them or any of it. My parents were paying and they were getting their paychecks for doing this to me. The school should have been shut down. My parents "didn't know any better" -- so much for how great America was and probably still is: Donald John Trump's "our beautiful and successful suburbs". They all should have been flushed down a storm drain (right).
It looks like the school is not nearly so bad in 2021. Now the place looks Joe Biden-ish, not the antideluvian dolts who were there when I was sentenced to the place 5 days a week 9 months of the year from 1958 to 1964. I vaguely felt they were all losers in life who couldn't make it anywhere else, so they were at St. Paul's [rumor had it that one of the math teachers has been an Electrolux vacuum cleaner salesman; Electrolux makes fine vacuum cleaners, but not math teachers]. It/They ruined my life. Mr. S. Atherton Middleton (above) was the Prig-in-chief, the Master of all the masters, the Headmaster. He vastly overrated himself, probably because he was a byproduct of a social surround that vastly overrated itself. A boat floats at the level of its lake. Item: Today the school no longer has a "Headmaster": Now they have a: "Head of School". A significant improvement!
"Whoever is sparing his rod is hating his son, And whoever is loving him has hurried his discipline" (Proverbs 13:34).
It was a place without purpose for me, since I did not want to be a minotaur; but even there, the kids weren't ass-igned to write essays about the history and throry of head-butting but about such flippancy as Charles paid-on-the-instllment-plan Dickens's pulp fiction for 19th century mid-brow prudes)). The place was, for me, even if not for the head-butters after school and off campus and don't-ask-don't-tell....: for me the place was men without women (esp.: no girl for me to make love with), even without clebrating masturbation as a consolation prize, a place without imagination, without hope, without any cats, without anything of value [not entirely true: the chemistry teacher was rumored to have pilfered some antiques from the Brooklandwood mansion], without culture, without anything that would appeal to me, but full of intrusive conformist self-righteous prigs. The 2001 sex scandal where one of their budding young minotaurs videotaped himself discharging his seminal fluid with a female student from another private school and showed it to the team was misfortunate: what we needed were videos of the sexual activity (or lack of same) of the faculty members instead of cheer rallies egging on the head-buttiers. I would have preferred attending s showing of a documentary film exposing everything Mr. Middleton does in the privacy of his home and does not want to publicize.
Specific goals in living need to be embraced within a horizon of living being worthwhile. Neither of these was offered to me by this place. It was a miasma in general in which there was nothing in particular worth doing. Again, I did not lust to be a head-butter or to get hopped up into a cheering trance. Go -- away -- team! Where did all this inanity come from? Wasn't the only reason these people were able to live with themelves that they weren't [living with themselves, that is]? It all must have come from what they came from (right).
I (BMcC[18-11-46-503]) had a 6 year sentence (1958-64) to St. Paul's School for Boys, which I now label: St. Paul's Day Carcel for Pubescent Male Virgins except-for-omerta-sex-for-jocks. This penal/pedagogical institution called itself a "preparatory school" Now I ask: Preparation for what?
Now late in life, after a lot of life wasted and lost, I see the answer: less than being a person. So much less than living that I was not even clued in on how much I was going to lose; if I had been aware I might have tried to do something about it? We should have read Franz Kafka's story "Metamorphosis": how a man becomes a giant cockroach, and been assigned to write an essay correlating it with our daily school experience, our classmates and our teachers (aka: our masters).
The school offered a path forward in life for those who bought into it: Becoming a head-butter. Excelling in getting your body muddy and smelly on the lacrosse and tackle football gladiatorial mock combat fields, and then enjoying the Empyrean of aim-inhibited homosexual single gender group nudity in a dank cinderblock locker room where the showers looked like Auschwitz. There was a big basket of all the jock straps you could want, in the God only knows what use it was office with a window open to the public hall just outside the locker room, where athletic coaches sometimes could be seen (probably it was for distributing non-mechanical "gear"?). Preparation for becoming an organization man, a commuter, a suburban lawn mower, a mortgage payer, a lifelong pro sports fan (not the ventilation kind) who would send his kids to the place when he grew up: Another dialtone☏. An eager member of a 2-legged-dog pack: "...We will always be true and bold, and we'll fight, fight, fight for ever, for the Blue and Gold, Rah! Rah!" Or something like that (Oh! I just noticed: The word "fight" has the character string: "fig" in it: Give each faculty member a fig leaf to cover his genderedness if he has any; give each two: a second one for his two couch potatoes....)
Of course this was not so bad for the students who had an after-school life where they could act out, including maybe copulating with girls from other single-but-other gender prep schools (or were they all virgins pro tem? I have no idea), and if you enjoyed things like drinking cheap beer and who knows what else "normal" (normally zombified) teenagers did in the early 1960's. I did not: All I had outside the school was my alcoholic ambulatory schizophrenic intrusive mother: a second variant of what I was stuck with during the daytime. You waste your life, Bradford, but, don't get upset about it, because nobody's cuing you in about it so you won't feel a thing. To live is to not feel much. Anyway, "It's no big deal, Brad." You're no big deal. The only big deals in this world are on the lacrosse and tackle football fields and in the newspapers. You will grow up to be a consumer of consumer products, like everybody else. Always remember to help keep America beautiful by getting a haircut every two weeks.
My parents were potholes.
My teachers were my taskmasters;
their gradebooks were their whips.
Had I lived near a cemetery,
I could have enjoyed being with
people who were more alive.
Why couldn't I have been prepared for something less ? Like maybe to become a disk jockey on the radio. Learning about the vicissitudes of the lives(sic) of rock and roll musicians and playing their songs all day and occasionally interviewing one of them would surely have been more lively than coding COBOL was. Why couldn't I have become a rock singer? I was alienated, like Bob Dylan, whose voice certainly was not in the Paul Robeson class.
I tried. I tried to make the most of any opportunity a saw. But I was always afraid jumping → into a sinkhole. I was always afraid things could get worse, the always looming: " "
I did not have parents in the sense of persons standing under and supporting me to try to climb up in life or even just to crawl around on. The earth was flat and there was no railing to keep me from falling off the edge. One time when I really was frightened: Of a doctor's nurse coming to do something to me, which turned out to be a steel needle she stuck in the middle of the back of my right arm which was probably unnesecssary and she could have only violated the crook of my arm and even have had empathy and tried to soothe me ⇒
No! My biological progenitors threw me to that Nurse Ratched and just sat on their dumb asses on a bench in the doctor's waiting room while I was led off to be traumatized. I was maybe 9 years old then; that was the final item of evidence I needed to be sure the world did not give a t-u-r-d (repeat: piece of excrement) about me. OK. I'd try to cope; I'd try to fall thru the cracks if they were remiss enough to have failed to seal them all up. Me against them and they were stronger but maybe I was smarter, like Odysseus vis-à-vis Polyphemus. No wonder I liked The Odyssey, is it?
I had no choice: I had to get "A" grades " ". Long before I learned about Marshall McLuhan, I intuitively undertsood that the medium was the message. OK; I took "easy" courses. They didn't stop me, and I ended up with the highest GPA for the four years of high school, which was the objective -- not to learn anything, or, a fortiori, to learn how to learn better. Of course my teachers would never have owned up to that, and rightly so: I truly believe they did not know what they were doing and since it worked for them to get their paycheck and, like dogs, to sniff each other's asses [metaphorically, of course!!!]. What would it have benefitted them to have been aware that, with only rare exceptions, they were dumbing down young minds? The alternative is that they were profoundly cynically evil.
How did I get into Yale? I did get fairly good scores on my "SAT" exams: 727/756, I never tried any "advanced placement" exam, which I would probably have failed (I was not stupid; I did not fall for "prove yourself" propaganda; I vaguely thought my teachers were "losers" who taught at St. Paul's because they couldn't make it anywhere else in life...). I did get 796 on the SAT English achievement exam (I have no idea why since I had no reason to write anything and if you don't know where you're going you can't jave any idea how to get there). I got in the high 600's on Spanish, but for some reason Yale gave me credit for that which saved me from having to take and do badly on a foreign language distribution requirement. I got credit for something else, too -- I forget what --, and I cashed it all in in my Senior year at Yale to take only 4 not 5 courses (I was having a low-grade mental breakdown then, so every little bit helped; I was trying to land the plane with all its engines out). I really goofed by signing up for an elementary drawing class in my sophomore year, on which I got a bad grade; John Wild's graduate philosophy seminar saved me there: a 92 (Wild was an easy grader, a gentle person). I took Astromony for Idiots to meet my science distribution requirement (not Physics!), and Galileo saved my ass by making a computational mistake in his "Dialogue of the Two world Systems" book (or at least I got away with writing that he did). Instead of graduating "summa cum laude", in probably any other prestige college and maybe even any other year at Yale, I might have flunked out. I made it through the cracks. But, please, my reader, don't misunderstand: I really wanted to learn; it's just that the medium was the message and grades not was where it was at. On my departmental examination, one professor (Paul Weiss) wrote "Puerile" but I got "Honors with exceptional distinction". I don't know how that happened, but I have a guess: John Wild. Sad, isn't it all ? ing
Graduate school. Probably any place other than the exact trajectory of studies I had at Teachers College in the Communication in Education department I would have failed. On my department enabling essay, which I only ws able to write only because a fellow student who was alcoholic and in process of really failing, had put me on the Lawrence Kohlberg's theory of stages of moral devalopment of children. I managed to make a paper out of that. And, sort of like my Yale departmental examination (previous paragraph) one grader wrote that the paper did not even meet the criteria (should be rejected on its face irrespective of content), while the other grader really liked it, so I got into the doctoral program.
As always, I avoided every teacher whom I thought might hurt me. Maxine Greene really liked when I told her I wanted to write a paper on a topic tangentially related to a course I took from her, instead (repeat: i-n-s-t-e-a-d) of doing the course assignments. How many teachers like that are there? Contrast: a Professor named John Black, whom I smelled was bad news and I got away from him before he could hurt me. Louis Forsdale was good for easy grades, and, after he retired, he became a personal friend, to whom, after me relocated to Santa Fe (New Mexico) I would call on the phone each Sunday morning and bitch about thins to him and listen to his stories about his life which probably few others know. Of course, Forsdale was where I finally learned about his good friend Marshall McLuhan, who was the person who famously said:
"The medium is the message" ("Understanding Media", p. 24, Citing from memory)
"Robbie" McClintock was my savior. My dissertation process might have been worthy of Odysseus. It took me several years to come up with a topic (I was looking everywhere for my eyeglasses when they were on my nose, which is where I was childreared not to look). I only got it because of an abortive educational misadventure I was having in parallel to Teachers College and working at IBM, trying to become a psychoanalyst. I completed the coursework there but they "froze me out" because I would not be a good little trainee and let my self be mindfucked by their third-rate faculty members. So that personal experience became the basis for my dissertation, which for obvious reasons, was an excoriating critique of: communication in the process of training psychoanalysts. Had any duly licensed or just tenured psychoanalysts or psychologists got wind of what I was doing, I would have been toast. Like any person with dissident views trying to argue against the duly constituted authorities that he is not insane. The John Blacks of this world would have said it was not even a dissertation topic.
"After Robbie saw an outline in which he said he thought there might be a dissertation in it, that was the last interaction I had with Teachers College (except for paying tuition (which IBM covered, perhaps without really underastanding what I was doing?), until I handed Robbie the finished document with the bibliography completed in APA format, even the page margins to spec. He looked at some 250 pages (1+1/2 not double spaced like I was supposed to do; he later remarked that he undertood that), for maybe a minute or two, during which time I cannot imagine he really read much, and he told me to make copies AND "We go to the orals". it could just as easily been: "Just who do you think you are,
termite student?" I still feel what I wrote was important, and I seem to have seen a paper by Otto Kernberg the next year which said some of the same things as I had (I am sure he did not know about my disseration), but he was a giant in the psychoanalytic community, so the lesser bulbs would kowtow to him, and therefore he could speak truth and get way with it.
"The medium is the message. I always wanted to learn. With the one big exception of my Ed.D. dissertation, and the little exeption of the paper I wrote for Maxine Greene, all my life I have been beset by people who wanted to grade me. In an old Starkist tuna ad, Charlie tuna asks everybody:
"What do you want? A tuna with good taste, or a tuna that tastes good?"
Prep for what?
"In sum, the "preparatory" school I attended was, for me, preparation to waste my life and not even know what I was wasting (like if a man had never been clued in that you could buy things with money, not just look at the portraits on banknotes and flip coins for heads-or-tails). One day I would die, hopefully without suffering. I always hoped to not suffer.
For me, St. Paul's School for Boys was living death. Since I did not want to depersonalize myself in intoxicated Dionysiac "school spirit" frenzy, there was nothing other endless opportunities to get a bad grade. Headhamster S. Atherton Middleton was a Mr. Dialtone ☏, and the if anything even more stolid lumpen Mr. Louis Clark the advanced placement American History teach who had supposedly been a Navy officer was if that was possible, even moreso. Unfit for display at Madame Tussauds. The Axis powers: Middleton, administration building South, Clark, upper school North (what did he do with himelf the rest of each day?). The best part of the place were the cinderblock walls and terrazzo flooring in the upper school (converted horse stable) and, of course, the antiques in th Brooklandwood mansion; anything that was authentically inorganic.
Mr. S. Atherton Middleton (above), if I could speak at you today, I would ask you: "What was going on in your head when I was a student at your school? What did you think you were doing? Did you anything except maybe tuiltion money and lacrosse scores? You have no clue what your school did to me, do you? You have no regrets? No remorse? You won't even plead ignorance and apologize, now? Not that it would do any good, of course." ☏ ~ Anyway, Mr. Middleton died and went to hell and I got to pick his punishment. Click here to find out what happened to him.
"Why am I dying to live if I am only living to die?" (Cat Stevens, aka Yusef)
A place called school
What men are willing to put up with depends on what they are able to look forward to. (Arnold Hauser)
Knowing what I know now, I cannot imagine putting up with being in school. It was insulting , degaradng and waste. The teaches didn't have a clue. But they had the arrogance to grade me like the USDA grades dead animal carcasses and even threaaten me in teir Inquisitorial Proceedings for their petty whims. They should have respetfully aked me what they could do for me and sttepped and fetched it. They were deficient.
Better adults would have been welcomed me as their peer. Eavh new day we could have creatively shaped the new day together, without tests, ass-ignments or grades. As they were I would like to rub feeces intheir faces to clean them. Sad to be stuck with such people:whoe first problem w that they ewre not aborgted or stillbirths, isn't it but they were what I was stuck with and they didn't shape themselves up.
A few might have done better had their world done better by them. (8th grade latin teacher Mr. Gentile wsa one; my guess is tthey fired him. He did disappear from the faculty, mybe due to not being willing to volunteer to coach sport teams aftr the end of the acadeeic day. He wa a "loser".) When I met my freshman roommate at Yale I discovered something I had not imagined was possible: that a human being could make my environment better than it would have been if they the person never been born. But I would have had a serious problem if all of them had died: Where would my next meal have come from?