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23 September 2006

Yet still even more Youth Science / The Nail That Sticks Up Is Soon Hammered Down


Click, learn Science(raw liver not shown)

Okay, I like this version. 14% less junky, with clearer symbology.

You have every right to ask: What Time Unit is Bobby using?

In trying to Reproduce Bobby's Science Fair Project, do you shock the flatworms 3 Years after you turn the light on over their tank?

No, because if it was Years or Months or Days, I wouldn't have used a stopwatch symbol, I'd have used a calendar.

So it boils down to Hours or Minutes or Seconds. The Time Unit Bobby used in the Science Fair Project is specified in the text. You may begin Attempting to Reproduce now.

Let me know how things work out. You may wish to submit your findings to an extremely famous scientific journal, "The Journal of Irreproducible Results." I am sure there is a great deal of material from tJoIR on the Web. The people who crank out tJoIR also, I think, award the annual Ig Nobel Prize for the sciences, for over-achievements like Cold Fusion (M. Fleischmann, S. Pons, University of Utah, 1989).

~ ~ ~

Unusually Intelligent Children
who regularly show signs of Being Different in any way should be beaten up on the playground frequently, while the teacher's back is turned, while she is having a smoke behind the dumpster.

In explaining or portraying their national attitude toward Non-Conformity, the Japanese have (or are alleged to have) a saying:

The nail that sticks up
is soon hammered down.

There have been a couple of notorious incidents in the last decade of playground murders of classmates who were not cooperating with their peers' hammering-down program, and were still sticking up.

I think the only distinction between the Japanese program toward Non-Conformity and the American program is that we forgot to dignify our program with a Koan. Here the slogan is "I really hate you and I'm gonna beat the shit out of you now."

For what it's worth, and I am not retro-morphing my recollections, I was never successfully bullied. Several techniques are now taught to American schoolchildren about how to respond to bullying. I developed a technique called Don't Fuck With The Crazy Guy.

It wasn't designed to appeal to the bully's pity or sense of humane treatment toward the emotionally unbalanced. Rather it was an announcement, in small Anglo-Saxon words that even a bully could understand clearly, that The Crazy Guy would respond to any act of bullying or intimidation with a large volume of Very Bad Things of a surprising, unspecified nature. It always worked. Whether it will always work for You, Bobby makes no guarantees. You could end up the victim of a notorous playground murder.

I like one anti-bullying technique apparently taught in some public schools these days. When a bully starts to do his or her Thing, if he/she is thoughtful enough to do it in full view of everyone in broad daylight, a mob of the victim's peers surround the victim -- a Group Hug sort of supportive gesture -- and make it clear that now the bully will have to take on not just one victim, but eight.

One way that police department D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) programs desperately try to keep themselves in public schools (the school budget pays for it) is to have retro-added trendy lessons in Anti-Violence and Anti-Bullying to their traditional core curriculum of Just Say No To Drugs. So public school kids are marched into a classroom to learn that violence and bullying are bad from a woman or a guy who is wearing a fully-loaded 10mm Glock automatic pistol and carrying a nightstick, handcuffs, pepper spray and maybe a Taser.

Perhaps this explains why Ghandi was only partially successful in his societal and political ambitions, why more people did not sign on to his program of Non-Violent Passive Resistance. He wasn't packing.

D.A.R.E. can no longer support itself with direct grants from the federal government. A few years ago, someone with a quirky sense of humor in Congress got a law passed that forbids the federal government from funding any program which cannot quantitatively demonstrate that it achieves its stated mission. D.A.R.E. has never been able to prove that kids who took D.A.R.E. classes have a lower rate of drug use than kids who didn't take D.A.R.E. classes, and a few studies have suggested that D.A.R.E. grads actually do more drugs than non-D.A.R.E. kids.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)
is mostly thousands of American college kids defending themselves on their various campuses from the brutal youth-bashing puritanical fascist crap that gets slung at them by the War On Drugs. So many of them had been forced to attend D.A.R.E. class when they were younger that for the last couple of years, they've begun styling themselves as "The D.A.R.E. Generation." D.A.R.E. can indeed demonstrate that it turns its students into lifetime political drug policy reformers, starting very shortly after the D.A.R.E. classes end. Although it wasn't D.A.R.E.'s original intention, D.A.R.E. apparently teaches kids to want to grow up and legalize drugs.

An RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or Mountie) D.A.R.E. school classroom officer in British Columbia died a few years ago of an overdose of heroin he'd been filching from the police evidence locker. It won't be hard to find the story if anybody wants me to. It was Very Noisy.

There's a classic study of American Non-Conformity and Conformity called "The Lonely Crowd" (1953) by a sociologist named David Riesman. Riesman divided humans into two categories: Inner-Directed and Other-Directed.

Other-Directed people sniff around and wet their fingers and are constantly listening to other people before they decide how to act or vote or speak or buy clothes.

Inner-Directed people skip that phase and act, vote, speak and dress pretty much the way The Voice Inside Their Head recommends.

I saw a bumper sticker yesterday pretty much like this:

You're Just Jealous
Because You Don't Have
a Voice In Your Head
Telling You What to Do

One very troubled guy in my homeroom came to the conclusion that I had given him the Evil Eye -- malojo -- and announced he was going to meet me after school. Ours was a large school with a half-dozen entrances, so I asked him which entrance he'd meet me at after school. This shook him a little, but he said Chesapeake Street. "Bring a book," I advised him. "I'm certainly not going to be anywhere near Chesapeake Street at 3 o'clock."

It begins to dawn on me at this point that being an Inner-Directed person and a sticking-up nail wouldn't have been nearly as much Fun if American Society had celebrated Non-Conformity rather than punished Non-Conformists so systematically and violently.

Logically, what have I been whining about all these years? What have I been fantasizing about? An America where 83 percent of its people were Non-Conformists?

Oddly enough, 83 percent of all residents of Vleeptron are Non-Conformists. I've heard it's even worse on Yobbo and Hoon.

~ ~ ~

In a very closely related development, the local NBC television affiliate, WWLP-22, has, after 45 years, pulled the plug on "As Schools Match Wits," its weekly quiz show in which teams from three different high schools throughout the Connecticut River Valley of western Massachusetts compete.

Until now, in all its ownership incarnations since I've lived within its broadcast or cable range, WWLP has been so pathetic a television station that I've just tried to pretend it wasn't there. The Remote was first introduced about the time I moved up here, so it's always been really easy just to change the channel. The uninspired, ethically challenged, community toxifying, money-slobbering and just plain stoopid stunts they regularly pull in the guise of television broadcasting have rarely managed to bother me overmuch. It's only television, and NBC hasn't had a great many offerings I'd actually classify as Don't Miss or Must Watch. Letterman switched from NBC to CBS, so ...

WWLP's daytime lineup is particulary extraordinary and community-enriching, just like your NBC or ABC or CBS or Fox or WB (big changes here this week I think) affiliate's daytime lineup.

WWLP is an acronym for its megalomaniacal Napoleonic founder William L. Putnam, though he sold the station to somebody else a long time ago. When not generously intimidating and imposing his will on and broadcasting his smiling visage to all the television screens in the greater Springfield area, Mr. Putnam was an accomplished alpinist.

But he did take a notable interest in public education, meddling in the public education sphere so regularly and forcefully that he eventually ended up getting a new Springfield high school named for him. I'm guessing he was a regular hit guest speaker at high school graduations, and on William L. Putnam Appreciation Day. Schools that knew how to kiss Bill's dupa (he liked it anti-clockwise) got Nice Stuph from the owner of the NBC affiliate. Career administrators with ambitions to rise in 20 school districts hereabouts could do worse than Kiss the Great Dupa.

"As Schools Match Wits" was probably Young Bill Putnam's original idea, although it was a pretty off-the-rack concept which lots of network local affiliates cloned back in the 1960s.

But ASMW had Bill's particular stench of Other Direction and bland, patriotic American conformity. You could watch ASMW for decades and never collide with a Surprise. Every weekend afternoon, the screen would light up with nine bright high school Youths, Kelley and Todd, Art and Louisa, and as the years went by, the occasional Sagmat and Rodrigo. Not a lot of color on ASMW, and when it did stray beyond white, it was usually jaune.

But ASMW just broadcast whatever 3 Youths each competing high school selected and sent them, so you couldn't blame the show's blanchenesse on Bill. They had some long-running arrangement with a respected Professional Educator who made sure all the answers on the back of the question cards were kosher, and made instant real-time judgments about Tifani's unexpected answer. (Tifani was usually Right and the Answer Card was Wrong, or Not Right Enough. Sometimes it took a commercial break to verify that Tifani'd been right all along, and the score was dutifully upgraded.)

Q. What's the word for a political
district shaped like a salamander?

EXTRA CREDIT: For whom was it named?

Those sorts of questions. Nothing to get a brain hernia over.

And every weekend during the school year for 45 years, nine of the brightest, smartest, brainiest, politest high school kids in a 50-mile radius, competing ferociously for their school, desperately trying to hit the buzzer first with the right answer to tough questions. Not a whiff of video or audio inapproriateness, the Gwen Stefani and Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson look never made it onto the airwaves.

Now "As Schools Match Wits" is no more. Kaput. Quoth WWLP: Nevermore.

According to the assistant cheese at the station, recent federal requirements that all programs be broadcast with built-in subtitles for the hearing-impaired imposed such financial hardship on ASMW, one of WWLP's very few locally-produced programs, that it finally broke the budget, and management pulled the plug.

News shows weren't much of a problem, because nearly all the text had already been entered into the computer and could easily be transferred to the required subtitles. But ASMW, with its unique back-and-forth MC-contestant dialogue, was too expensive to transcribe. ASMW always had corporate sponsors, but no one was willing to pony up the extra money needed for the subtitles to satisfy the federal requirements.

The weekend hour will doubtless be put to good use with a network sports feed. People like football more than they like smart, competitive academic students anyway. There's more violence in football. There was never any violence on "As Schools Match Wits." Bad waste of a weekend broadcasting hour.

So kids in my neighborhood who want to become rocket scientists or doctors or biologists or mathematics professors will henceforth have to do it without the local support and exposure and confidence-building that ASMW provided for almost half a century.

Somebody Leave A Comment and tell me to Get Real, Pops, get with Modern Times. Who the fuck wants to watch academically smart high school kids busting their heads about stuff in books? Nobody wants to buy beer and cheap crap watching a show like that.

3 comments:

Jim Olson said...

I brought communion and had dinner with a very elderly gentleman this week who was the very first general manager of WBZ television. He had been brought to Boston to take over operations of the radio station in the late '30's because the man running the station was frequently drunk on the air. (In those days, GM's of radio stations still took turns reading the news or hosting programs...).

Anyway, Mr. Swartley and I spent a lovely evening talking (and drinking single malt that was nearly as old as he is). He lamented the end of locally produced television shows such as the one that you are talking about, Bob. I remember Rex Trailer on the television as a child, a locally produced children's show on Saturday mornings that never got as big as say, Bozo the Clown, but was still quite well known.

The standardization and neutering of television programming to remove any regional variation is unfortunate. I remember when the television station in White River Junction, VT was purchased by the station in Burlington. The little local newscast that was really quite terrible disappeared, and people nearly stormed the station. (Closest thing I've ever seen to a mob with pitchforks and burning torches and sticks with big nails driven through them...)

Bob Merkin said...

My regards and best wishes to Mr. Smartley and my thanks to him for making WBZ a TV station with a widely recognized local content and flavor. She Who Must remembers Rex Trailer fondly. In DC, my local afternoon cartoon cowboy was Pick Temple, who always told us: "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today."

Commercial television throughout the United States today is just a federal ticket to show alcohol commercials featuring gorgeous half-naked adolescents getting drunk at parties. If those kids are 21, my name is John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.

Captain Morgan the Pirate says: Please drink me flavored sweet rum responsibly, Aaaargh.

I hate these posts. They are clearly symptoms of progressive Old Fart Disease.

Abbas Halai said...

You should readup sometime on why tobacco is legal and marijuana isn't. but you probably know anyway so don't bother clicking.