Nibbled to death by ducks

For those who are wondering about my sudden absence from posting — or the sudden scarcity of postings, at least… no. It’s not all work.

I won’t go into details, mostly because I’m not absolutely sure all this won’t end up in the courts yet — or at least in a really funny roman a clef — but this year my younger son’s school has been trouble of one kind or another.

Oh, don’t misunderstand me — a part of this is the kid himself. The older one mostly takes after his father in public demeanor and behavior, which means by twelve he gave a convincing immitation of a human being. The younger one is mine, mine, all mine, from the top of his little horns to the bottom of his little hooves. Eventually — hopefully — he’ll control himself and limit actions resulting from his skewed view of the world and resulting sense of humor to the occasional joke — that will sail well above his teachers’ heads — or the — more lucrative — short story.

For now, though, he is twelve. Just on the edge of adolescence. Pudgy. Unwashed. Callow. He forgets his homework. Brushes his teeth only sporadically. His idea of a suave expression made me hide his school picture because it looks exactly like he was struck by sudden intestinal trouble. His attempts at intervening in table time conversation cause all of us to stop dead and say in three voices, in unisson “Shut up, Eric.” (It’s not so much they’re not on topic. It’s like they came from another dimmension.) His not inconsiderable brain power is right now devoted to one setting only “Open mouth. Insert foot.”

So, you’re saying “He’s twelve.” Yes, indeed. Even Robert who, as I said, was pretty human by that age decided to announce to his social studies teacher, at that age “I only come here so mom can get work done. It’s not like I’m learning anything.” The fact that it was true — for a child who taught himself to read from Caesar’s biography at four, middle school social sciences were really beside the point — was no excuse for saying it. And the crud I had to deal with afterwards…

So I imagine what the younger son says and does. Part of this is my own memory of being that age. Half understood politics and religion had the force of dogma. I not only didn’t understand other people, the world was divided into “the stupid and the non-stupid” and the non stupid were vanishingly few. The stupid, otoh, were vast and deserved to be annoyed at every possible moment and in every possible way.

Again — he’s twelve. Adollescence isn’t kind on anyone, and it is part of the function of growing up at that time to get your rough edges knocked off by your peers. Right?

Well. Wrong. At least as far as this middle school is concerned. As far as they’re concerned, the rough edges of adollescence are to be knocked off by the boot of authority. They are to be treated as something between thought crimes and sins. You are to be shriven and jackbooted until you shut up and think only in the CORRECT way.

A friend’s daughter in 8th grade now did an analysis in which she proved middle school was a totalitarian regime. At the time I thought “ah ah. cute.” Now I’m not so sure.

I am perfectly willing to concede that there must be limits in the interaction between sexes in middle school. Of course, by my lights my limits would be that boys and girls would get shut in separate barrels — but that’s just me. I got felt up and cornered in middle school enough to say any physical touching is not acceptable. There are verbal things that should be forbidden as well and at least flag the child for counseling — I’m thinking death threats; spewing obscenity… that level.

But though Eric has gotten at least one death threat in choir — which was ignored with “you must have misunderstood him — the thought crimes we’re punishing are much stranger. Bizarre even.

I had early warning of this when I was told the oldest was harrassing girls in kindergarten by reciting poetry at them. To wit, he told a girl her eyes shone like diamonds. This made her feel “uncomfortable” and was therefore, obviously, sexual harrassment.

This year… well… take boy who expresses himself oddly to begin with. Add girls who have been trained to think anything at all that a boy says to them is harrassment. Voila. A recipe for driving a parent nuts. For better finetuning of the loony-bin creating machine, make sure at least one of the teachers seems to never have been around teen boys — and sends your son to the office for not answering in his “real voice.” Welcome to my h*ll.

The shennenigans this year are too numerous to mention much less describe. In some of them the boy had a reasonable amount of — at least — escalating guilt. In at least one he was the victim of concerted bullying by a group of girls, which extended to his homework and tests disappearing before reaching the teacher — but we only found out about it because a girl finally crossed the line and accused him of bullying THEM. Lone boy. Twenty girls. What can I say? My boys are overachievers.

And then there was yesterday. Yesterday was just BIZARRE. It convinced me of my friend’s daughter’s point. Middle school is a totalitarian regime. Like all totalitarian regimes it extends its reach at first for a purpose and then mindlessly, till it’s punishing bizarre things and till everyone is guilty at all times.

I was going to call it neo-stalinist, only, you know, it would be an insult to Stalin. Weird as that might sound. At least, whatever he might have said, he wasn’t under the impression he was doing anyone a favor. I remember reading somewhere in Heinlein — and I don’t remember the exact quote — that the tyrants to be wary of are those who do things for their victims’ “own good.”

So — yesterday — Eric tells me he was sent to the office for an hour. Why? Oh, they wanted him to apologize for something a girl said he’d said to her. A girl.Said.He’d.Said.To.Her. No witnesses, no corroboration. You’re accused, therefore you must be guilty. The principal and the vice principal spent an hour with him demanding he confess. AN HOUR.

Okay — at this point I’m thinking… death threat. It has to be something very serious for them to take time out of their busy day to devote it to this. Right? Particularly when you add in that he’s denying saying anything and that the charmer who made the accusation was in the first group of girls who severely bullyed him — in fact, was one of the principals in that group.

So, what terrible words did my twelve year old utter — SUPPOSING he’d uttered them, which, frankly… Well… the sentence is almost incoherent enough to be his, but it makes more sense as something that was misunderstood (Particularly since it was supposedly said on a volleyball court, mid game.) — oh, brace yourselves, this one is good. What he SUPPOSEDLY said was “Let’s go down get some alcohol and do something.”

This warrants an HOUR of demands to apologize because it made the girl feel “strange.” (I don’t know about you, but if she’s strange enough to demand protection and apology from THAT she’s going to have an interesting time in real life.)

There is no indication at all that this was a sexual suggestion — if anything was said, it was between plays in the volleyball court. There is NO suggestion of threat in the words. It is — if it was said (and I’d put my hands in the fire it wasn’t, simply because the boy-monkey withstood an hour of yelling at while refusing to apologize because “it’s plain dumb to say you’re sorry when you didn’t do it.”) — no more than what a twelve year old might say trying to sound grown up.

Look, in my time, it wouldn’t even warrant a glare at the boy, much less decking him (which I reserved for crimes of touching.) In my day, that kind of stupid sentence warranted pretending you didn’t hear it. I still use this arcane skill at cons. Serves me well.

BUT — at a guess because the word alcohol was supposedly used — this warranted taking the kid out of class — without corroborative testimony — and having him interrogated and told he MUST apologize.

My mind is bending trying to figure out how the words even would be offensive, much less what he would be apologizing for, even had he said it.

It’s not neo-stalinist. It’s 1984 run by the mad hatter. Confess. Repent. Words mean exactly what we say they do, unless they don’t.

You know, it’s not just that they’re interfering with my ability to think — and write. It’s not just that they’re making my son miserable. Being miserable is a condition of early adolescence. He’ll live. And so will I, except maybe with a few more white hairs. Worst case scenario I bring him home to homeschool — with him kicking and screaming all the way that he “wont’ give them the satisfaction” — and cut out the stress producers.

No — what upsets me here is that all of a sudden making someone feel uncomfortable is a crime: whether or not you had any reason to think in advance that anyone could be made uncomfortable by your words or gestures. What upsets me is that they’re teaching half our population — by and large the female half — to run to authority for protection at the slightest provocation, instead of getting THEIR edges knocked off by contact with the opposite sex.

What truly upsets me is that our childrens’ souls are being nibbled to death by ducks.

22 responses to “Nibbled to death by ducks

  1. This is almost strange enough that I’d demand that the girl in question be given not only a hearing test, but a listening comprehension test.

  2. Stray evil thought, before I forget.
    If boys are automatically evil…then the principal is automatically evil and wrong, isn’t he? Aside from the ignorance and stupidity he’s demonstrated with such enthusiasm.

  3. There’s a place on the web where this kind of thing…
    … is collected, publicized, and subjected to the proper amount of well-deserved ridicule. Take a look at This is True, Randy Cassingham’s website. He’s got a fantastic collection of ZT-bullshit stories. A few school administrations have actually backed down, when they became laughingstocks.

  4. Souls nibbled to death by ducks
    Oh my gosh this is so why I homeschool. Sometimes I threaten the kids with public school if they won’t just get their hineys in gear and recognize the blessing it is to be at home. But *shiver* I really won’t do it, so I should stop threatening.
    *hugs to Sarah and Eric*

    • Re: Souls nibbled to death by ducks
      I must say that the thoughts that went through my head reading this post were along the lines of, “I’m so glad I’m planning on home schooling.”

    • Re: Souls nibbled to death by ducks
      Yeah, I think it, a lot. Send’em to school and let the school deal with their 12-year-old attitudes.
      Then I remember my own 7th and 8th grades and hear stories like this… and keep them home another year.

  5. Yet here we are, wondering why DPS is afraid of letting me teach, while nincompoops run our schools.

  6. When is the administration in that hell hole going to get its act together? Saying silly things to girls is all part of growing up – if he even actually said it. Authority figures harassing twelve year olds because they don’t have any common sense (the Authority figures not the twelve year olds) is just plain wrong, and it’s the real issue here.

  7. ***hold on to your delicate little ears people, cussing may end up happening here,but I’ll try not too**
    Hmmm I kind of agree with Eric about not giving the pricks the satisfaction. The fact that your having to do this AGAIN annoys me. Apparently they didnt get the point when you said we can do this like sane people or we can bring in lawyers. Apparently they WANT to be sued into bankruptcy. I’d call them halfwits but that would be giving them too much credit. I’d say they were even lower on the evolution chain than single celled microorganisms but that would be an insult to the single celled micro-organisms all over the universe. Okay I’m convinced. These people are obviously too stupid to continue living and polluting the gene pool, let alone teach the next generation. ***starts patting down pockets to find fabrege egg shaped and sized nuke. not finding it he whips head around and shouts “REEEX! did you take the nuke out of my pocket again to ‘IMPROVE’ it?!”****
    Seriously though look at the brightside, if you decide to home school him it doesnt just have to be you and Dan teaching him. You know there are a few ex and current educators on the bar that will most likely be happy to teach him using the net to communicate and teach. A lot of Universities now are starting to do some of it that way. Hell didnt Dawn tell you as much one day in the diner that she’d be happy to help? Anyway..hugs Mama Taz. 🙂

  8. What continues to eat at me about this whole thing is how Eric’s received a death threat that has been ignored and blown off by admin. How can any reasonable adult simply ignore this, especially given the fact that they’ve already had to eat their words about the bullying and other matters? Of course, I know I’m assuming these are reasonable adults and they have proven, over and over again, that they are anything but reasonable.
    Just know that I’m here if you need me. And I reiterate my offer to tutor/teach Eric via the internet if needed.
    Hugs to all of you. Virtual chocolate and single malt on the way.

    • The reason they can ignore and blow off a death threat is exactly the reason the school confronts Eric about some stupid sentence he may or may not have said: they can’t hear every single conversation at all times. They can’t videotape every move the students make and therefore they have to resort to questioning the students, who by this age, lie. I’m not accusing Eric, Sarah, I’m just saying our courts are flooded with liars, malcontents, and criminals and there’s no way to perfectly ensure that every guilty person is convicted and every innocent person goes free. Middle school is supposed to be a time when children learn to turn away from childish behavior in preparation for high school, but since so many students bully, lie, and sneak, the adults running the institutions are burdened to find every possible way to make things fair so the other students can get an education. They see Eric, who, like Sarah says, is very different from the other kids, tells teachers he’s there to do work rather than learn, and looks unkempt. They don’t understand him. He says things that are bizarre enough to be lies. How on earth will they trust him unless he’s proven himself to be a trustworthy student? Maybe the only trouble the girl has ever gotten into was when Eric accused her, or maybe she’s in trouble all the time. I don’t know. All I know is that when I was teaching, I was so bombarded with tattle-telling that I maintained a mindset of “If I didn’t see it and the child is not in danger, I try to ignore it and let the children sort it out.” It’s hard, but what can you do? Tattling is a way of saying “I don’t know how to handle this.” That girl needs to learn to, like you said, ignore boys who say ridiculous sentences to her or even throw a little spitfire back.

      • Of course Eric’s different. He’s proven that he’s a hell of lot more intelligent then most of the idiots that are supposed to be teaching him. I know thru talking with Sarah that to me at least he’s smarter than the ADMINISTRATORS, forget the teachers. He’s sure as heck got more integrity than all of them combined. Way to go Sarah!

      • The problem is that these very same administrators have pulled Eric in and threatened him with discipline, even with making him leave the IB program, for things he hasn’t done. He’s been accused of making threats, of not turning in his homework, etc., and all without any teacher or administrator hearing or seeing anything. Further, the accusations have been disproven and he’s been allowed to make up the work the other students intercepted.
        It’s the double-standard that really, really bothers me. Plus the fact that a school administrator isn’t taking a verbal death threat seriously enough to at least call in the student(s) involved. Why is it that Eric isn’t to be believed when he says someone has threatened to kill him and yet one of the girls who it has been proven was in on the conspiracy to make sure his homework didn’t make it to the teacher whenever it was passed up the row is to be believed with no outside corroboration?
        Maybe I’m a little touchy about this but I know Eric. He is no more “different” than most any other teenaged boy. Besides, whether a child is different or not, a threat should be looked into — especially given the history of some of the kids toward Eric just this year. Most of all, these administrators are simply putting the school in a position of great liability if anything should happen for the simple reason they have done absolutely NOTHING to rein in the real troublemakers.
        I wish I could agree that the administrators are simply trying to make things “fair” but it has been evident for months that they are not. They have an agenda that has as its end result getting Eric out of IB and, most likely, the school. As an educator myself, their behavior makes me shake my head — and offer my services to Sarah in case she does need to home school Eric in the future.

        • Poor Eric. Is there anyone he can talk to, like a guidance counselor, a favorite teacher, or a psychiatrist? It really sounds like this is way too big to just shrug off. If another adult intervenes, someone he can communicate with and who will stick up for him and won’t come across as just an emotional mother (or however they think), maybe it could help his cause.

          • Rollerjen…if there was a teacher, counseler… whatever with any integrity at that school who would listen, believe Eric over the people accusing him of crap and show any common sense at all…do you REALLY think Sarah would be griping about the outright willful stupidity of the teachers and administrators, contemplating a lawsuit and seriously considering homeschooling Eric?

            • Probably not. My experience is only in Elementary School, not Middle School, which I know is a whole other ball of wax. I just find it hard to believe there’s not a single person in the school who can listen to him objectively and intervene on his behalf. My point is that, once people get prejudiced against another person, it’s difficult to change their minds unless they hear another reasonable person discussing it. I can’t tell you how many parents have come in for conferences with the attitude that their children do nothing wrong. Administrators and teachers can become immune to it. Eric (as Sarah describes him) doesn’t defend himself in a way that convinces people to listen to him. I know my old school had 2 guidance counselors and a psychologist, and a few times they were able to talk to children, find out what was going on, and tell me about it in a way that helped me deal with them accordingly. (Example: a boy’s sister had died the year before and he was grieving, but to me he only appeared to not do his work and roll his eyes when I tried to get him to do anything. His mother wouldn’t tell me and he wouldn’t tell me, but the guidance counselor figured it out and intervened.) I just hate to see Eric and the whole family go through such a rough situation if there’s some help available. Probably they’ve checked out all avenues, but is it wrong for me to suggest it?

  9. Further glee that I lack offspring. 🙂
    On the other hand, it’s wonderful to finally connect with you on LJ. Hiya, hiya. Will I see you at either the Nebs or World Fantasy in New York?