This morning I went up to my old public school to vote. I was at school there only from kindergarten through 4th grade. In 4th grade one Ms. Vend was appointed principal, over the howls and protests of parents and the local school board. Ms. Vend was the sort of shallow, mean, gratuitous, and ineffectual leader — much like the Governor of Texas who sits in the White House today — who inspires her minions to be even more venal than she, and who can be counted on in general to let bad slump into worse.
Naturally I remember this only by proxy, but the neighborhood was tumbling into light poverty and the district was in the throes of one of its ethnic readjustments, and P.S. 163 must have seemed a likely place to dump a patronage body who had worked her way through the system and needed to be put somewhere to pasture her way to retirement. Lucky us.
In the course of a few grim months, everyone who could afford a private school suddenly afforded one. Ms. Vend’s comment on the swelling of her minority percentages was benevolent and terrible: she opined at a public meeting that you couldn’t expect them to learn like we do. The sad thing is that she probably thought this was generous and enlightened, like say the rule of the British Raj in India. I’m sure she just wanted to help.
After a teacher slapped a difficult girl named Shannon in class one day and called her a bitch (in the company of a racial epithet with which I shall not burden these pages), I dutifully toddled home and reported the action to my Mom over lunch recess. Calls were made, authorities were summoned, and suddenly it was time for me to change schools and hop to an adjacent district where I could be terrorized by kids my own age, instead of by kids my own age together with the vengeful posse of an enraged teacher.
So I turn up at the old school building once a year (OK, sometimes I let those little in-between election years slip, but hardly ever) to complete two roughly-annual traditional missions:
- buy a cupcake, strudel, Danish or similar crumbly sticky thing from the Parent Association Bake Sale.
Target acquired. Objective accomplished. De-briefing:
- full Democratic line, top to bottom — on an old-style flip-lever analog voting machine, the kind that actually counts the votes.
- lemony cupcake with light sugar frosting, home-made and yummy.
Go Kerry! America, keep out the Bushes!