Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Coming To Me With Their Hand Out.

I received a letter from my Alma mater St.Marks in which I was informed that it was time to give back for the four wonderful years I had there. Being a St.Marks alumni,means getting such letters on a regular(as well as irritating) basis. And sometimes you'll receive a letter saying that out of so many of my graduating class only a small per centage donated money. It's a tactic meant to shame those of us who in the thirty odd years since we graduated haven't felt the need to fork over any more cash to them than they 've already been paid. It's almost as if every one of us owes the school our eternal gratitude(as well as our money).

Maybe they've forgotten this little fact of life, but going to St.Marks was not free. There was tuition, books,supplies;nothing was given to us gratis. It was a case of :

My parents: here's your money.
St. Marks: Here's your sons education.
Me: Thank you.

You could say that I have no school spirit and you know something? You'd be absolutely, one hundred per cent,fourteen carat correct. The point is, I owe St. Marks nothing. And being blunt about it,my four years of high school were hardly four magical years. Now, I know certain classmates who whenever they mention their years at St Marks begin getting misty eyed,a catch develops in their throats as they wax eloquently about the joyful memories of high school. But not me. In reality,I had some good times. But I also had quite a few bad times as well. I met some really nice people. I also met my fair share of dicks, too. In essence, it was four years of school and nothing else.

So, they can send me letters chastising me for not being a more generous alumni member all they want, it won't make me loosen my purse strings on their behalf. As far as I'm concerned they've already been paid, my debt to them is no more.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

School Bullies:You Don't Have To Have To Suck It Up And Take It.

I recently overheard a conversation between two former high school football jocks in the locker room at the gym where I work out at. One of them was complaining because his son had been suspended from school for bullying a classmate. The kid who was being picked on was smaller and wore glasses,so that was reason enough for his being hectored by the larger, albeit, pea brained moron. As if his son was perfectly justified for his loutish behavior,the ex jock proclaimed," I don't why the other kid didn't just suck it up and take one for the team! Besides, the big kids always pick on the smaller kids. It's a rite of passage!"

Now,I don't know what possessed pig skin boy to make such a ludicrous statement because first off: life isn't a damn football game. The smaller boy shouldn't be expected to "suck it up and take one for the team". Second: being bullied is a "rite of passage?" For who I wonder. I sure as hell can't see the kid who's getting pushed around coming out of the situation with anything remotely positive. So it's the loutish bully who actually comes out ahead. Who, when he grows up(physically not intellectually) will rationalize his actions with the blanket statement," Boys will be boys."

Well, that kind of asinine mind set needs to be corrected due to the fact that these days,the kids being picked on are fighting back by bringing knives and guns into school in order to exact revenge. I'm certainly not advocating this as a way of righting a wrong. But when one feels his back is up against the wall,that person deals with the problem with the only option they feel is open to them. If they tell their parents or the teachers,the other classmates will consider them a tattletale ,a rat and will be ostracized by the other students. And unfortunately, peer acceptance in the school environment is paramount. Except for those who are strong and secure within themselves and don't need the approval of the in-crowd for self validation.

I faced a similar situation in 1972 when I was a student in St.Marks High School. I'll readily admit I was never one of the popular students and was never accepted by the self proclaimed cool cliques; those batches of conformist yahoo's who proclaimed their individuality but in reality went out of their way to be part of the status quo . In other words, they never walked the talk. And, unlike the average high school student, I could've given a pinch of shit if I was popular or not. I didn't have a lot of friends, but I did hang around with a cool group of people. So, unlike the idiotic urban legend circulating around St.Marks, I wasn't universally disliked either. I always considered it to be a case of quality as opposed to quantity.

For whatever juvenile reason, my friend Larry and I were made the targets of a group of tough guy wannabes who individually wouldn't have said boo to either of us,but clump them together and they suddenly became our tormentors. The taunts and jeers finally escalated to an incident were we were cornered in the mens room by these creeps. Two of the ring leaders, Gary Stoltz and his feeble minded accomplice Bill Hatten, were trying to make Larry and I fight each other. We refused to comply with their demands and by shear force of will managed to escape. During our escape, Stoltz viciously grabbed my science paper and tore in in half(the asshole was probably jealous. I'd gotten an A for my hard work and Stoltz,a dimwitted clown,was known for his stellar C- average. College was definitely not in this loser's future.)

Now I could have kept quiet, this was after all part of the high school code. However, I was well aware that this brand of abuse would go on,even escalate further . So,Larry and I went to the principles office and that's where the antics of these band of punks were officially put to a halt. Both of us were branded as "rats", but those bullies were off of our backs and we never suffered any reprisal or consequences. Our friends were still our friends and the people who didn't like us,still didn't like us. So, nothing changed. And although I seriously considered bringing a baseball bat with me to school to even the score(nothing would have evened the score better than breaking Stoltz and Hatten's arms and legs), I never followed through with my plans. Which,in hindsight, was the right thing to do.

And since in recent years there have been incidents where the victims of bullies have brought weapons to school and have killed those responsible for tormenting them, schools have adopted a no tolerance policy when it comes to sadistic cretins pushing fellow classmates around as a warped, twisted way to get their kicks. It's now socially acceptable to report school bullies to the proper authorities. No one going to school should ever have to suck up any sort of abuse. It's not a right of passage and neither is it part of the curriculum.

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