My first week of middle school, I started realizing how awful middle-schoolers are as human beings in general. The boys, at least. This was mainly manifested in P.E. class, where I repeatedly saw 6th-grade boys push and shove and grab and bicker and posture and cut in line all just to get a better place in line, whether they deserved it or not. I’m referring to the lines we waited in to come to bat in kickball or rag ball, or to play some other game in the basketball gym.
Looking back, those little douchebags remind me of the boys in the South Park episode “Bebe’s Boobs Destroy Society”. In that episode, Bebe starts maturing a little early and shows signs of boobs in the 4th grade. This triggers a primal sexual-attraction instinct in the boys, and they devolve into cavemen fighting and grunting to compete for Bebe’s affections. Their vocabulary drops to one word, ata, which I guess they use to mean boob.
This is almost exactly what some 6th-grade boys in my class were like. Maybe every 6th-grade class (or 5th, or 7th) is like that to some extent. I think the fact that 6th grade was the beginning of middle school was key in the timing of this Neanderthalism. I didn’t even observe the boys trying overtly to impress girls, but rather I think it was just a male dominance/machismo thing. I’m sure it was all attributable to hormonal changes combined with some evolutionary desire to establish physical dominance in any group and/or new situation, and I don’t doubt several of them would cringe in embarrassment if they could peer back through time at themselves at that age. But a lot of us weren’t like that, and we continued to behave like civilized, intelligent human beings through the rest of adolescence.
Seventh grade was clearly the worst, a year when respect, civility, and decency reached a lifelong low. During 7th grade, I clearly remember thinking how awful many of my classmates were and how much I disdained them. I wasn’t an angstful, emo teenager at all, and I was never one of those depressed kids who felt like an outcast and hated the world. I was the opposite: I just wanted to get straight A’s and obey the rules and never get into trouble and generally conform as long as it didn’t take too much effort or social interaction. I was calm, quiet, and followed the rules, which is probably partly why I disdained all the disrespectful, misbehaving 7th-graders so much.
I think about the dehumanizing, decivilizing nature of our school systems often, especially how their coercive, authoritarian nature, which is actually quite disrespectful to the children from the beginning, engenders so much angst, rebellion, and misbehavior in them. I am committed to raising any and all children I might have to be as mature, responsible, and respectful as they can at every age, and to make sure that their educational experience, whether it’s at home or in schools, also encourages and allows them to maximize their self-respect, maturity, and independence at every age. Traditional, bureaucratized schooling, especially polluted with douchebags and Neanderthals as is so common, should be the main thing all parents strive to avoid.