Schoolhouse Hell

My children have always liked school. They participate pretty avidly and just as much in the academic part as the social part. They think it is comical that I hated school and that I hate school now, on their behalf. I might have hated graduate school less than I hated kindergarten, but I did hate graduate school as well. For me, school as it’s usually construed perverts and ruins learning of all kinds, most especially the love of reading. I wanted to spare my children this, but they didn’t want me to home-school them, figuring correctly that what I would ask would be harder. So I backed off. A hundred years later, I can remember the experience of going to kindergarten for the second time. The first time, I lasted only part of a day: The good sister who was teaching the class berated me for coloring outside the lines with my crayon and, when I didn’t improve, locked me in a broom closet to consider my sins. I cried until I fainted and I guess the teacher forgot about me for the rest of the day because the next thing I recall was my father tearing open that door while treating Sister Phillip to a hailstorm of the kind of language she probably didn’t hear in the convent … I did not go back. But, the next term, I went to public school, where it became clear to me what I hated about school is what I hate about human life in general – that is, other people. I warily entered the cheerful classroom but then our warm-hearted and lovely teacher was called to the office for just a moment. When she left, the other kids decided to push all the desks against the door as a barricade so she couldn’t get back in … and indeed, it took an hour, and someone tall climbing in a window for her to take back the classroom. During that hour, young sociopaths laid waste to the room, breaking toys, eating all the cookies and juice, hitting the more frightened children. I didn’t go back then, either, not until first grade, which was marginally better, but not great and I didn’t look forward to one single day of school until I was a senior in high school.

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