In 1987 I was 12, in the 7th grade of a conventional US government school. The hit music was INXS, Poison and (thank god) Guns N Roses. The hit TV comedy bit was Church Chat. Ronald Reagan was still US President.
This year was the beginning of the end for me socially. Hormones were just starting to kick in. I was to parlay my reputation for bizarre, anti-social, anti-intellectual behavior into a friend- and girl-repelling toxin that would guarantee my next 6 years on the outside of just about every social group in town.
This 7th grade year was also the beginning of student government at New Canaan Middle School. Crusty old homeroom teacher Mrs. McGinty was a committed democrat (small ‘d’) and reverently explained to us the 45-minute nomination, campaigning and election process we had to go through.
As a goof, some little asshole in class nominated me for one of the two representative positions. As a goof I said yes. Everyone sneered and guffawed at my retarded, Jim Carey-wannabe stump speech. Crusty McGinty rolled her eyes at me for being an asshole. The bitch clearly felt that democracy was being mocked.
I’ll explain in a bit why I call her a bitch.
I won the spot – me and some other goody-goody bookworm chick in class.
I remember the moment of winning and how I felt. It was embarrassing - because my boorish behavior was being rewarded and I was clearly aware of being the brunt of a joke. It was also satisfying – I thought that I must not be a complete asshole to win an election. The students wouldn’t sacrifice sacred democracy just for a joke. At some level I was the boy for the job, right? So what if my responsibilities would be limited to voting on school lunch menus and the year-end dance theme. This was kinda serious.
It took exactly 30 seconds for me to discover the uncomfortable ickiness that comes with power. A student – we’ll call her S.D. – grabbed me on the way out the door to literally lobby me to use my new influence to get her inappropriately older boyfriend from out of town a job as DJ at the year-end dance. I still remember how uncomfortable this power felt. It felt instinctively horrible to think that economic decisions are made on whim and favor instead of merit. This was actually one of my early libertarian epiphanies.
Anyway – the very next day the students decided that they’d had enough of this elaborate gag and nagged Crusty Bitch McGinty to hold a recall vote. It was probably one of the other self-seeking back-biters in class (there were plenty in New Canaan) who wanted the job for themselves who put McGinty up to it. Regardless, she said OK.
A recall vote was held, I was booted from office, and completely humiliated. I remember keeping a big, uncomfortable smile on my face the entire time, to squelch the pain and anger this was causing me. What a cruel thing for these asshole students to do, but what a foolish move for Mrs. McGinty. She taught these spoiled brats in a rich town that they can be cruel when it suits them, then cry and pout their way out of trouble. There would be no consequences for them.
This Bitch McGinty disliked me on an instinctive level because I hated her class and her prison-school and the entire system of conformity, and I put my money where my mouth was by acting out my one-man play of mockery. Teachers who were committed to and believed in the rotten system hated me the most. I’m quite sure this is why she allowed the recall.
My parents apparently learned of this entire episode in the parent/teacher conference that year. Mrs. McGinty volunteered the whole story, which I had kept to myself for shame. They were just as livid at her then as I am now. I didn’t wake up to the emotion until recently now that my own boys are school age. This story – and others like them – is a big reason I refuse to put them through government school – or conventional private school. I won’t their souls getting crushed. Since my oldest son takes after me in the behavior department, this would be a real possibility if he went through prison school.