The Permanent Record

Part of my misspent youth included a number of visits to the principals office. Now you young people would not understand such a thing a being a big deal. I am “old school” and I am talking of course about the old days when students were afraid of the teachers and principals and not the other way around. I had a 4th grade teacher that was meaner than a junkyard dog and looked like two miles of bad road. She had a perpetual scowl on her face and weighed about two sixty and dressed in frumpy old washed out dresses. She didn’t have to send anybody to the principals office because she could handle anything and anybody. Her name was Mrs. Skillet and as 4th graders we were suitably afraid her.

This was a time when corporal punishment was not only allowed, but many teachers took relish in it. I think that the 4th grade was the only time in my entire grade school career that I didn’t have to be sent down to the principals office, and that was because Mrs. Skillet had things well in hand. She had come to us with a reputation. We had heard that he pulled Alfred Higlison’s ears so hard that the earlobe started to bleed when it was pulled away from his skull. Things like that tend to scare tender little 4th graders.

I got caught acting up (I would imagine that I was showing off for the pretty girl in the pony tail), and before I knew it, Mrs. Skillet was marching down the aisle looking straight at me. I knew that he had declared me guilty without a trial and in an act of self defense, I put both hands over my ears. When she was standing right at my desk she punctuated every syllable with a rap of her sharp fingernails on my head. Are…you…go …ing…. to… get…to ….work….now …and… be…have? I swear she must have driven me down a full inch with every hit and before I knew it I was almost under the desk.

But I digress, although this gives you a pretty good idea of the way things were back in the day. (No, I didn’t have to walk in knee deep snow uphill, both ways.) (That was my father.) But if you were sent to the principal office for something that was under the heading of bad behavior, there were two things that would scare us into making a major adjustments. One was for them to reach for the phone and ask whether they should call your parents about the problem. (I used to shake my head so vigorously at that question that I think I still have loose parts in my skull.) Nobody wanted to go home and face their parents after a call from the principal.

There was another thing that school principals used to do to scare us back into the realm of acceptable behavior. First of all, every school principal I ever knew was a pretty scary guy. If you were sitting in his office for something you did, they used to hold a file folder in front of them like they like they were holding something as serious as the Dead Sea Scrolls, look you right in the eye and ask in a voice that sounded like the right hand of God himself: Do you want this go on your PERMANENT RECORD?!?!?

I am not sure how many times I was threatened with that question. For some reason having something stamped in your PERMANENT RECORD was a scary thought. As if three marks on your PERMANENT RECORD and some someone from the FBI was going to break through the door and haul you off to prison. Or worse yet you could only get a job working for the government.

Once a year the school used to give a full day series of standardized “achievement” tests. No matter how well or badly we did in other work in school, we wanted to do well on the achievement test because we were told: the achievement test will go down in your PERMANENT RECORD.

There was once a boy in our class name Corky. (The name says a lot about him and who he was. And his real name wasn’t Corky, what parent who name their seed Corky, but we knew him only by that appellation) He took one of those tests and never read any of the questions. He just made little Christmas trees designs on his “blacken the circle” answer sheet. His “give a shit” meter was on low that day. The rest of the class was sure to a certainly that once that test made it’s way to the PERMANENT RECORD that someone would come into the school take him out to the playground and beat him, brand the word “stupid” on his forehead and haul him off to an institution.

I was always afraid that having some incident place in my permanent record would keep me from attaining any worth while job and sentence me to a lifetime of moving rock piles or cleaning grease pits.

I think it is time for some amnesty for the thing called permanent records. There was a reason I worked for myself for half of my lifetime and that was because I was afraid of my PERMANENT RECORD had followed me.

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