‘Memory Lane: Regimentation’ (2018)

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When I was a boy going to school in the 1950s, THE big thing was “regimentation”–making like the kids are in the army. Unless they had a plan to stage some bloody great 18th century-style infantry battles with children, I never saw the point to that.

Memory Lane: ‘Regimentation’

I mean, everywhere you went but Sunday school it was “Tennnn-hut! Dress right, dress! Count off by fours, count off!” If the idea was to instill in my generation a habit of discipline… then how in the world do you explain the Sixties?

I think my father’s generation sent a mixed message: spoiled us rotten, while at the same time treating us like army recruits. You can’t do those two things at once and expect anything good to come of it.

10 comments on “‘Memory Lane: Regimentation’ (2018)

  1. I guess I missed out on that one. I graduated high school in 1951, and I never saw anything like this in either of the two schools I attended over the years.

  2. There was a degree of it in the schools I attended, but not to the degree you describe. IMO, this comes down to establishing unquestioning obedience to authority. This is necessary if you are forming an army, but can be unhealthy in other situations. Public schools are modeled on a concept of standardizing education. While that seems a laudable goal, it is based on some highly flawed assumptions.

    The public school system roughly coincided with the Industrial Revolution and the era of mass-production, by means of a standardized labor force. Basically, many tasks were reduced to a set of simple steps, which allowed almost anyone, regardless of skill-level, to contribute to the process of mass production. The flawed assumption is projecting the interchangeability of mass produced parts onto humans, and the tacit assumption that all people will respond similarly to the same situation. Creativity and original thought are not desirable in a workforce which is involved in repetitive, simplified tasks. In fact, such traits are undesirable.

    I once had a job which started at 6:00 AM and I was required to take my coffee break at 8:00 AM, even though I was much better off taking it at 9:00 AM and my choice of break times had no impact upon co-workers. Simply put, the canteen didn’t open until 8:30 and if I waited until 9:00, the rush would be over and I could enjoy a good break, but it was not to be, because that broke the “model” of how things were to be done.

    Schools claim to encourage creativity, but that is a fallacy. I actually remember my first day of Kindergarten and the first “assignment”, which was to color in a line drawing of an elephant. We were free to do as we pleased, except that we were forbidden to color the elephant black, because the teacher considered that an unhappy color. Really? 30 minutes into my public school career, and I was already being regimented to conform and my creativity was to take place only within boundaries that the school system found acceptable. Kindergarten was about one thing, and it had nothing to do with scholastic pursuits. Kindergarten was about teaching small children to comply with authority; nothing more, nothing less.

    We hear and read of all sorts of anguish over school discipline and the challenges of making certain that all students achieve the same educational goals. Of course it can’t work, because students are not interchangeable machine parts; they are individuals. Has it ever occurred to some of these “educators” that the reason some children have attention deficits is because they are bored to death?

    I spent my public school years doing three things; staring out the window in boredom, reading books from the library regarding subject that interested me (and hold my interest to this day) and, on rare occasion, excelling at subjects which interested me. During my non-school hours, I was quite successful at educating myself. I built model cars and learned a great deal about automobiles because of it. Later on, I had an old junker of a motorcycle that I worked on, and to this day, that learning has been useful. I read books about airplanes and flying, which led me to learning about weather, physics and the mathematics of flight. This was useful learning, because it was applied learning. Trigonometry is an essential thing to learn, but it seems a lot more compelling when it is applied to the effects of a crosswind on an aircraft in flight.

    Then there was my passion, which is music. I have to credit some of the music classes I had in school with being useful, but I think that it would have been wonderful had we been able to try out various instruments for ourselves. To this day, I’d love to try an English Horn, just to see how I’d like it, but I can’t afford to buy one in order to test it out. Inexpensive and durable student instruments could, and IMHO should be available to youngsters seeking to satisfy their musical curiosity. That would be a better use of money than regimenting students into the pre-determined tastes of their instructors, which I saw plenty of.

    While I am hardly a worshipper of Kig COVID, the last 18 months or so have changed much in our world. Just two years ago, I was seeking a job where I could work remotely, but now that is the norm in my field. If I were to change jobs, it might well be that I would end up working for a company far away and I might never set foot on their property. Likewise, I expect that with regard t9 the educational system, the cat is out of the bag, and never again will the public schools see the sort of hegemony they once had.

    In a truly righteous world, I could see education happening in a much more natural manner. Imagine a world where basic skills, such as the proverbial Three Rs, being passed down from family members to younger children. These are basic skills that I agree, should be availed to everyone, at least to the degree necessary to allow someone to function. Beyond that, special skills could be passed along by informal mentorship, with the possibility that a child could learn subjects of interest from relatives and even neighbors. For the highest level of skills, it may be necessary to pursue specialized training, but even that can be done creatively and without the overburden of an educational system which vacuums up tax dollars as if there were no limits

    1. This probably deserves a blog post of its own, but you’ve just made me think of it.

      In grade school the teacher had us write short stories. But there was a catch: she always chose the topic, and if you deviated from it, you got a bad grade.

      So once we were assigned to write “The Adventures of a Dime.” Somehow that topic really bored me, so I wrote about a dime named George who got swallowed by a cat and couldn’t get out until Mr. Vomit came along and offered him a lift.

      What a ruckus that caused! The teacher wrote an angry letter to my parents; and although they almost always sided with Authority, because that’s what people of their generation did, this time they sided with me! They didn’t see any point in a creative writing exercise in which the teacher did all the creating.

      I’m very glad they took the stand they did. They didn’t know it at the time, but they were encouraging me to become a writer–and never mind what some hidebound “teacher” thought of it.

    2. That’s it exactly. You are 100% free to create as you wish, so long as you create WHAT the teacher wishes. Your approach was truly creative, and rooted in reality. The Adventures of a Dime was an interesting vehicle to stimulate imagination, and I don’t fault the teacher for the suggestion, but she should have been ready to accept whatever the students imaginations came up with. Sure, some deserving but impoverished kid could have found the dime and done something charming with it, but that’s predictable. What if the dime ended up in the bottom of a septic tank and corroded slowly, over many years? Not a pleasant, warm and fuzzy fate, but a realistic one.

      It all fits with my point, because even when the school system is trying to encourage creativity, they have to impose their terms on the students and, ultimately, restrict creativity.

    3. I was assigned to write about a room since we were studying Earnest Hemmingway’s “A Clean Well-light Place.” I did a banged up job of describing a bathroom (the toilet was an ivory throne). My essay was not appreciated.

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