We got so much traffic on StandardNET Live Tuesday that our Web server suffered the equivalent of a migraine headache. The online traffic slam stemmed from Di Lewis’s story about student abuse at Plain City Elementary.
Di’s yarn made the front page of the social networking site Reddit. Our Web server techs anxiously clutch their duct tape any time this happens, because it means many new visitors to our site are clicking away from around the world, straining the box’s capacity. But after some slow page loading during the afternoon, the server was responding normally by evening.
Speaking of school abuse: The Plain City story highlights the ugly truth that privacy laws and other legal and bureaucratic red tape have become a contributor to such outrageous situations and corrupt how school personnel handle them. When kids suffer abuse, the fog of rules and regulations masks it from view, then provides cover for those who could or should have stopped it.
It makes me wonder if the nuns-and-yardsticks philosophy of old was better.
By the time I went through Catholic schools in the 1960s and 70s, the nuns had put away their yardsticks, but they didn’t need them. They’d still freeze you with a glare or a sharp word, no need for the wood. All those tough old nuns are gone, and I realize now that their iron hand was the reason kids most of the time shut up and studied like they were supposed to.
My own experiences under the yoke of parochial order were a beach vacation compared to what my father and his brothers lived to tell about. My dad, who was by all accounts a handful for his teachers himself, has told us riveting stories of his older brother, Donny, and the challenges he presented to the elementary school priests and nuns of Cheyenne, Wyo., of the 1930s.
One day, the story goes, a priest used a dictionary to teach Uncle Donny a lesson. Rather than reciting from the tome, the reverend smacked Donny across the skull, knocking him to the classroom floor. Donny learned his lesson that day, groggily returning to his desk. The family thinks the dictionary blast probably concussed my uncle, the elementary school upstart.
Donny wasn’t done drawing fire. Another time, a nun got so angry at him, she took a sweeping open-handed swing at his noggin. Donny ducked and the nun instead slapped the chalkboard. The next day she showed up at the front of the class with her arm in a sling.
My uncle survived all of this just fine, and the three R’s soaked in. He flew a Navy dive bomber in the Pacific in World War II and later headed the Civil Air Patrol in Wyoming.
Would the awful story unfolding in Plain City Elementary today have had a different, perhaps better, plot under the influence of an old-school management approach?