Friday, January 28, 2011
SEMINAL INFLUENCES #3
Just recently, at a dinner party, a school classmate was shocked when I said that a certain teacher we had had was an "ignorant, vindictive bitch".
All my life I had heard what a great teacher "Mrs. DOG" was. [I called her that behind her back: DOG stood for "delusions of grandeur".] She had been my mother's teacher and all 5 of my older brothers had her as a teacher. Her great distinction was that she'd been given the honor of creating a mathematics test for the "Ohio Every Pupil Test" because my older brother and others had consistently scored high on the state mathematics tests from little rural Bloomingburg School.
I was actually looking forward to having her as a teacher and I think that all of us had been programmed to be in awe of her because she had taught so long and was renowned to be a "great" teacher. The older boys affectionately called her "Ma" behind her back.
By the time I had her, in Ohio History, she probably should have been retired. She was mean, petty, vindictive, and showed great favoritism toward her "pets" (which I might add, all of whom were from well-to-do families), but the worst thing was that she did not know her subject! She was primarily a math teacher but I guess a history teacher was needed that year and I suppose she and the hierarchy thought she could teach "anything"! I never had her for any math, Algebra, Geometry or Trigonometry, so I will not comment about her ability as a math teacher.
From the beginning, when I merely questioned her about a statement she made which I knew was an error, she haughtily responded, in front of the entire class, "Just because you're a Shirkey doesn't mean you know everything!" I was summarily ordered to Mr. Biddle's office where they called my mother at home. "Mrs. DOG" told Mr. Biddle that she had also had my mother as a student and that SHE would talk to my mother! Even then, I knew that her high-handed treatment of the Principal was WRONG! On the telephone, my mother took my side, but when I got home, she said that I needed to show respect and I countered with, "Even IF she's wrong?" Mother said that I should because she was old enough to be my grandmother.
One day, in Ohio History, in 1956, and we were going to have a mock-election between Eisenhower and Stevenson. Mrs. DOG made the statement that "All Negroes should be Republican because Lincoln freed the slaves." I was shocked and knew that I SHOULD speak up but I was also cowed by my having been upbraided previously. [I have lived with the shame the rest of my life that I did not correct her since I was a Stevenson supporter.] There were 5 Negroes (the politically correct term at the time) in the class and I surreptitiously stole looks at them to see their reactions.
I also had her in English and thank goodness for "multiple-guess" tests because she couldn't give me bad grades on those although she did attack my book reports. I recall that I asked to report on "Cry, The Beloved Country" (for "extra credit" which she always encouraged and being a little brown-noser, I always did!). I wanted to report on the book because my brother Bode had the book, and I wanted to be considered "grown-up", but Mrs. DOG vetoed that saying that she would choose what books we could use and that we weren't going to have any of that "Communist stuff"! I innocently asked her if she had read it! She said she didn't need to read it because she'd "heard" about it! Of course, Alan Paton was a Christian and the book and ideas have nothing to do with Communism--just more evidence of her ignorance--and intolerance. I kept telling my family that "she had it in for me", but my brothers and mother still defended HER! I told my brother I would prove it to him. I turned in a book report which my brother had done two years previously and she had given him an "A"; I re-wrote it in my handwriting and she gave me a "B"; I gave my own actual report to someone else to use and he was given an "A". I knew the "B" grade was just her vindictiveness toward me because she COULD do it and get away with it and I had no recourse! When I told my mother about what I had done she told me that I was wrong in doing that.
Fortunately, after that year, I never had her as a teacher again.
Three years later, my favorite teacher, Miss Digman, came to teach in Ohio because West Virginia had a mandatory retirement age of 70! Because she "roomed" at my friend's grandmother's house, I had almost daily contact with her outside the classroom and not only was she a brilliant teacher, but also had an acerbic, scathing wit and didn't suffer fools gladly. When I told Miss Digman how "awful" that "Mrs. DOG" was, both my friend and her grandmother literally GASPED and immediately began praising Mrs. DOG! I began to relate evidence demonstrating her meanness and ignorance. I shall NEVER forget Miss Digman's response, "This is like a scene from "The Manchurian Candidate"--whenever her name is mentioned--all these brainwashed people immediately begin singing her praises." I had never read "The Manchurian Candidate", but it immediately went to the top of my "to-read" list! Miss Digman laughed and said that I was the FIRST and ONLY person in Bloomingburg to tell the truth! When Miss Digman used the term "delusions of grandeur" to describe Mrs. DOG, it was the first time in my life I'd heard the phrase used, and it was then that I adopted it as an acronym for "Mrs. DOG", which Miss Digman found amusing but my friend and grandmother found disrespectful.
Years later, watching the movie of "The Manchurian Candidate" I vividly recalled Miss Digman's comparison to Mrs. DOG!
Miss Digman told me that Mrs. DOG was very upset because she had asked all of her fellow teachers their academic credentials. Miss Digman told me that "Mrs. DOG" didn't have a college degree and I was shocked to learn that and I asked how she could be allowed to teach. Miss Digman, who held a Master's Degree, sniffed in a condescending way when she told me that "Mrs. DOG" had graduated from a "normal school". I asked what that was. She answered, snottily, "They went to school back then until they could get a husband and they let them teach school." Miss Digman was unafraid to tell the truth.
The year I was ready to graduate, Mrs. DOG announced her retirement. I took the three book reports--my brother's original with the "A", my copy of his with a "B", and my actual report submitted by someone else with an "A" and showed them to Mrs. DOG and told her how she had discriminated against me. She said that I should be "whipped" (WHIPPED?--I had never had so much as a spanking my entire life!) and she immediately reported it to Mr. Biddle and said that I shouldn't be allowed to graduate. Of course nothing came of it.
I had never heard anyone outside my family use the word "bitch", but when I told Miss Digman, she used that word to describe Mrs. DOG!
I have lived my life emulating Miss Digman and doing everything I could NOT to be like "Mrs. DOG"!