The ability to be funny is a *character flaw*???? Good grief! Could you imagine being a child growing up with that counselor as a parent?
Me? I like your ability to be funny. Well, except for when the snorting out of fluids causes damage to my hardware. :-D
Try being a student with that counselor for five years (grade five through grade nine) and teachers with some of the same attitudes.
The reasoning went like this: I was a child of divorce. Children of divorce were not (and still are not, in many minds) expected to succeed...we were expected to have severe psychological problems, become "bad" in some way, fail in school and in life. If we DID succeed, it was by means children from two-parent families didn't use--pathological, somehow. For instance, when the blonde daughter of a doctor and his wife tried out for cheerleader, or sought a role in the school play, that was normal because she was the kind of person expected to succeed, and expected to be popular, and expected to "lead" (to the extent girls were allowed to be leaders back then...head cheerleader or secretary of the student council was OK, but star athlete or president of the student council was not.) Such girls could do things that brought them attention without being accused of "just seeking attention" or "tooting their own horn." When I had the temerity to sing, or crack jokes, or make higher grades and scores on achievement tests than a child of divorce should, that was clearly "over-achievement" and did not reflect any real talent--just a morbid desire for attention, brought on by not having a father in the house.
It was explained to me, in that tone of earnest, saccherine "caring" that is so clearly a way of putting someone down "for their own good," that I was merely trying to compensate for the lack of a father-figure...that in my case attention-seeking behavior was pathological (not the term used) and however happy I seemed, I was actually, necessarily, suffering the consequences of having parents who'd divorced...the working mother, the absent father, had scarred me and determined that my future would be bleak. (I was miserable in junior high, but it wasn't that: poverty and my mother's very serious illness--she was told she would die within the year, soon after my 13th birthday--combined with the school's firm belief that I was doomed, were plenty of reason.) I was told explicitly (then and in high school) that I was unlikely to find a husband and if I did marry would undoubtedly fail as wife, and if I had children would be a lousy mother. At best, I could learn to suppress any desires of my own (even more than other girls) and hope a compassionate world would let me sacrifice my miserable self to helping others.
Poisonous, yes. If you want to create psychological problems in a child, this is a good way to go about it; despite fighting my way through every barrier the school placed in my way as I tried to get an education, I did lose, over the years, confidence in my abilities. I was told "You aren't as smart as you think you are." And "You aren't attractive, so you had better learn to make the most of the little you have..." And "Nobody likes smart women; you need to hide what you know and can do." If I didn't do perfectly, it was my fault...though expected. If I did succeed, it was by accident, or luck, or because someone else helped me. or "let" me succeed. Nothing was ever enough--not excellent grades, not the best deportment--because the label "child of divorce/broken home" was stuck to me like the scarlet letter, and the more I tried to disprove the beliefs, the harder they stuck.
It was a different time, in some ways: the world belonged to white boys and the girls they married (if the girls picked the right boy. If they were considered eligible mates for the right boy. Girls from a broken home were not.) Few women were allowed in medical school, law school, into graduate school in most fields. Most of the occupations listed in the little book seniors were given for "career planning" were barred to women, or limited by quotas to very few. It was of course worse for those of other races, but it was bad enough for me to give me some small insight into how blind prejudice might affect others who suffered from it.
I was a child of divorce, too, though 15 years later than you and in California rather than Texas. Things were better then (and there), though there was still some of that lingering on (probably still is lingering in some places...sigh).
I'm glad that you showed them. And I'm very sorry that you (and other children like you) had to go through that. And I'm pleased to be e-friends with you...better you than closed-minded gits like that any day of the week.
Oh, and saw stacks and stacks of OATH in the Waterstones on Deansgate in Manchester, UK, yesterday. The friend I was with bought her copy while we were there.
Thanks, Terie. And delighted about the stacks of OATH (may they quickly become small stacks, though!
Agent tells me I'm now ranking in the top thousand at Amazon.uk for this title--hope that means something (and it's not the same as "in the bottom hundred.")
2010-03-14 10:26 pm (UTC)
Good grief --- I don't think your counselor had the character flaw -- I know she did. You talk about other races and immediately "we shall overcome" comes to mind and you can see what had to be overcome. Glad you and others were able to. -Kathleen
I'm jealoous that you get to see so many cranes. If one shows up here it is an exciting find.
I had useless counselors in school, but at least they didn't say things like that to me. If I believed in hell, I'd think there ought to be a place reserved there for authority figures who treat children that way.
I think most of them were ignorant and/or stupid, unable to imagine themselves into the student they were harming. Only a few impressed me as actually cruel, even at the time.
Abusing power is always evil, and for whatever reasons, some in every walk of life that grants power over others will abuse it.