Thursday, October 15, 2015

The School-Prison Equivalence

Ever been to prison?

Me neither, unless you count that once.

Once, or twice, or three times, depending, etc. — once inside, twice on the grounds. Strictly business.

One tour, just me, Norman, and the loud sloppy not-so-bright guy whose name I can't remember from the local chapter of the Germans From Russia historical society. Let's call him Reiny. Close enough.

Norman was curator at the State Historical Society of North Dakota. I was his assistant for two and a half years.

Reiny gave us the tour of the state penitentiary. He worked there part-time. We got to see stuff.

And then again later Norman and I went out and documented the furniture in the warden's residence. All old stuff. We had been meaning to for quite a while, but you know Norman...

Anyway, suddenly it was a rush job. Get out there today. Just do it.

We had a nice chat with the warden's wife and tucked little notes about things all over the house in preparation for photography and detailed measuring and note taking the next day, and then the warden came home early. He had just been fired.

How convenient. And there we were. In his house. Sent to make sure that none of the furniture disappeared.

That's how we found out about that, our real purpose for being.

And it sort of fits in with the whole prison thing — you aren't in charge and if you ask too many questions, or the wrong ones, or any, then the train wrecks itself on top of you.

I'm reminded because the schools here are like prisons.

There is a big yard inside.

The front gate locks everyone in.

The inside world is cut off from the outside world.

Inmates wear uniforms.

Moving around has set hours, all locations are off-limits without specific permission, all activities are pre-determined and depend on approval, as does association with others for anything whatsoever.

Count on it being either mandatory or prohibited, whatever you're talking about.

And expect to know which questions are allowed. Or keep it shut. Mostly shut.

Your mouth. Your mind. Your imagination. Your consciousness.

And be invisible as much as you can.

I experienced a week at a Catholic college once. Until it blew up. I'm not good at following orders.

No, nope, and not.

I wouldn't do well here, in a Catholic grade school, and it's in no way related to me being 10 times older than some of the students.

But it seems to work well enough for them.

It seems to have worked well enough. In the past.

I wouldn't count on a prison-discipline regime turning out graduates of adequate caliber for global competition. Now that there is global competition.

And maybe that's why they haven't elected me king.

Because I'd change everything, doncha know. PDQ. Assuming I even wanted the job.


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