To the editor:a
At any local gathering place or coffee house in Perry, Juniata, or Mifflin counties, when the conversation turns to public schooling, almost everyone agrees the problem with education today is that teachers can no longer discipline.
"Why, when I was a kid and got into trouble at school," some wizened sage will say, "I got it twice again at home." Thank God my parents never did that.
That wise man says that is exactly the reason why I misbehave to this day. That I do.
America's poet of the 19th century, Walt Whitman, before he gained notoriety with the publication of his collection of self-worship poetry, "Leaves of Grass" in 1855, wrote a notable short story.
At the age of 22, Whitman penned a must read story entitled, "Death In the School-Room (A Fact)."
"Death" is a story of a young lad who is falsely accused by his tyrannical schoolmaster, Lugare, of stealing melons from Mr. Nichols's truck patch the evening before. The boy of 13, Tim Baxter, vigorously denies the allegation.
After suffering relentless, degrading harassment, Baxter retreats to his seat, rests his head on his arms, and awaits his punishment, scheduled for the end of the day.
When the time comes, Lugare orders his victim to stand. Baxter remains unmoved. Lugare grabs a rattan rod and proceeds to mercilessly flog the culprit at his seat. Lugare's diabolical flogging intensifies, as Baxter shows no signs of remorse, remaining inactive.
Irate beyond reason, Lugare grabs the boy by the arm. Baxter's head hits the top of the desk with a dull, sickening thud. Lugare had been beating a corpse.
Readers may wonder who suffered more, the pupil or the teacher? They miss the point.
Wayne C. Beaver