The Kids Get the Power Structure
Details are sparse in the Sakonnet Times account (which isn’t online), but from what’s presented, I’d suggest that the teacher-student power structure is out of whack in American education:
According to police, Wayne Collins… an industrial arts teacher at Tiverton Middle School, made a comment at around 9:18 a.m., on Friday, May 29, to a group of students, one of whom commented back, whereupon Mr. Collins alegedly got nose-to-nose with the student, who reached out or pushed Mr. Collins. Police say he then grabbed the boy’s hand, locked it, and brought the boy to his knees.
According to Superintendent Bill Rearick, the teacher was “placed on ‘paid administrative leave immediately on the accusation being made.'” How’s that for giving students a trump card?
Obviously, we can’t have adults manhandling students, but throughout our culture, the illusions on which adult authority are based are unraveling. This passage of Stephen King’s It often comes to mind in these circumstances:
Through half-lidded, tear-blurred eyes, Eddie saw a big hand come down and grab Henry by the collar of his shirt and the strap of his biballs. The hand gave a yank and Henry was pulled off. He landed in the gravel and got up. Eddie rose mores slowly. He was trying to scramble to his feet, but his scrambler seemed temporarily broken. He gasped and spat chunks of bloody gravel out of his mouth.
It was Mr. Gedreau, dressed in his long white apron, and he looked furious. There was no fear in his face, although Henry stood about three inches taller and probably outweighed him by fifty pounds. There was no fear in his face because he was the grownup and Henry was the kid. Except this time, Eddie thought, that might not mean anything. Mr. Gedreau didn’t understand. He didn’t understand that Henry was nuts.
“You get out of here,” Mr. Gedreau said, advancing on Henry until he stood toe to toe with the hulking sullen-faced boy. “You get out and you don’t want to come back, either. I don’t hold with bullying. I don’t hold with four against one. What would your mothers think?”
He swept the others with his hot, angry eyes. Moose and Victor dropped their gazes and examined their sneakers. Patrick only stared at and through Mr. Gedreau with that vacant gray-green look. Mr. Gedreau looked back at Henry and got just as far as “You get on your bikes and —” when Henry gave him a god hard push.
An expression of surprise that would have been comical in other circumstances spread across Mr. Gedreau’s face as he flew backward, loose gravel spurting out from under his hels. He struck the steps leading up to the screen door and sat down hard.
“Why you—” he began.
Henry’s shadow fell on him. “Get inside,” he said.
“You—” Mr. Gedreau said, and this time he stopped on his own. Mr. Gedreau had finally seen it, Eddie realized— the light in Henry’s eyes. He got up quickly, apron flapping. He went up the stairs as fast as he could, stumbling on the second one from the top and going briefly to one knee. He was up again at once, but that stumble, as brief as it had been, seemed to rob him of the rest of his grownup authority.
He spun around at the top and yelled: “I’m calling the cops!”
Very few children are the massive psychotic bullies of Stephen King’s rendering, here, but as I’ve made my transition to the grownup side of the line in the years since I first read the above, I’ve noticed many signs that adult society has stumbled up the steps with sufficient frequency that more than just the bullies are noticing, and the response to the threat of involving civil authorities is more likely than not to be, “You go right ahead.”
As King often captured masterfully, the world of children is often a chaotic place, prone to test authority, not adhere to it on a rational basis. Sometimes being pinned to the ground is a lesson not to force things even further next time around.