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10 March 2002

Some time back, I was reading this entry in The Windmills are Winning  and it got me to remembering the kinds of things we were taught in grammar schools. Things which sound so ridiculous when you're an adult and can see them for the object lessions that they were.

There's a book about growing up Catholic which is called "Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Shine Up." The title came from the fact that little Catholic girls were not supposed to wear patent leather shoes because supposedly dirty-minded Catholic boys could look at the shine in them and see up to a little girl's panties.

Even knowing that and trying to find a long-range reflection in patent shoes, I am unable to do it. You wonder how obsessed with sex celibate persons are that they would even think of such a thing.

When I was in grammar school, there was one nun who taught a "health class." It was the last 15 minutes before lunch two or three days a week. She always had some gross story that would make us too nauseous to eat.

I remember three very well. One was about two girls who decided to take pills to help them lose weight. They sent away for the pills and one girl took the pill right away, while the other was going to take the pill in the morning, so left it on her dresser overnight. When she got up in the morning, the pill had turned into a tapeworm.

As an adult, I realize that she was only trying to make a point, but it sure kept me from even thinking about diet pills. In fact, it still keeps me from thinking about diet pills. Of course, now I have the added impetus of things like the Phen-fen debacle, which was far worse than simply a pill turning into a tapeworm.

Another story involved a tree with stiff fronds instead of leaves and a boy jumping up to grab one of the fronds having it go through the top of his head and into his brain. Now what the point of that story is, I have no idea, but I sure remember it.

There was another one about some kid who didn't urinate when he needed to whose bladder burst. I'm less clear on the details of that one.

It's amazing to me that we believed these scare tactics. But I guess kids are gullible.

We used to joke with our kids about eating their vegetables when they were little. This came from a guy I used to babysit for, who knew I didn't like vegetables and would tell me that if I didn't eat them, my ear would fall off. So we started telling our own kids that. We always made a joke out of it and I don't think any of them were traumatized by it.

But we were taking care of a little kid one day an when he wouldn't eat his vegetables, we teased him about his ears falling off. The next morning, his mother called me and asked, kind of incredulously, "did you tell Scott his ears would fall off if he didn't eat his vegetables?" Apparently he was very quiet while riding home in the car and finally asked her, very seriously, if his ears would fall off if he didn't eat his vegetables.

Kids are such sponges and they regard everything adults tell them as gospel truth. Is it any wonder that we have young kids growing up hating people who are different, believing that the "others" are less worthy. Whether they be a different color, a different race, a different sexual orientation...the grown ups, the "gods" of the children, have set the tone, let them know that these "others" are to be feared, hated, mocked, in some cases tortured or even killed.

Unfortunately, once the seed is planted, these children grow up to be adults and far too many of them don't look back on their early teachings and realize that, like with the pill that turned into a tapeworm, the lessons really weren't true.


Quote of the Day

You've got to be taught
Before it's too late
Before you are six, or seven, or eight
To hate all the people
your relatives hate
You've got to be carefully taught

--Rogers & Hammerstein - South Pacific

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