Thursday, October 11, 2012

Schoolyard Rhymes, Part II: Down With The (Teacher) Man!

Little kids are the most subversive writers out there.

I came to this realization after my parents cleaned out their basement storage room and found some of my old school assignments.  Including a short essay about my family's Christmas traditions that actually opened with the words, "My nasty teacher is making me do this dumb assignment, so I might as well get it over with."

This wasn't a random scrap of notebook paper I'd scribbled a fake essay on to vent my frustrations before starting the real one, mind you.  This was the actual essay.  Which I'd turned in for actual points.  Amazingly, the resulting grade was not a triple Z-minus.

When you think about it, children are pretty powerless.  They live in a world of (in their eyes) arbitrary and often blatantly unfair rules and restrictions that must be followed no matter what, with the adults they rely on for the very essentials of life strictly enforcing the rules.  No matter how loving and fair the adult enforcers are, of course a kid is going to harbor a little bit of resentment toward them.

That's why this little ditty circulated around my playground, especially in the weeks leading up to Christmas:    

Joy to the world!
My teacher's dead.
I barbecued her head!
Don't worry about the body;
I flushed it down the potty,
and round and round it goes
and round and round it goes
and round and round and round it goes!

Now that school shootings are a big concern, hearing such a song in their classroom might make teachers a bit jittery.  But when I was a fourth grader in the early nineties, it was generally understood that we kids weren't actually little psychopaths plotting to engage in a cranial grilling party followed by the world's most ridiculously impractical method of corpse disposal.  We were simply blowing off steam; saying "You're giving us homework over winter break?! Well, stuff you, hag-beast!" rearranged into a fun, lighthearted celebration of cartoonish violence.  The hostility was there, but the delivery was ridiculous and over-the-top enough that no one got in trouble.

Which is the whole intent of subversive writing: speak the truth to power, but don't let power know that you're doing it.  I'm pretty sure that I only got away with writing that essay the way I did because the teacher thought I was joking.  Maybe I actually was joking, but I doubt it.  Despite tending to be a teacher's pet, I rarely liked the homework they gave out.  Especially, as mentioned above, homework given over winter break.

Which I think that essay might have been, considering the subject matter.

I've been out of grade school for a good fourteen years now, and I still get a little bitter when I think about all the times I was stuck in my room doing homework over winter break.

Yeah, I totally wasn't joking.  As my teachers read my essays and chuckled at my feisty sense of humor, they never knew I was mentally firing up the grill and giving the Cadaver-Be-Gone toilet a priming flush.  Joy to the world indeed.


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