Friday, 12 December 2014

Offensive tackle

Today, I write about pain and violation,
so skip it if your sense of empathy is over-developed.

One of my busy-work tasks at The Institute is to correct lab-copies, write some hopefully helpful comments and give each essay a mark out of ten. It is a chore - I hate assigning a value to one person's struggle to become a scientist. Having four separate Biology practical classes that need to be thus assessed every week, one of my early stipulations is that every student's name and section appears on the outside of the book, so I can check them off without having to flip open the cover. A few weeks ago, beside the name of one of the female students appeared the word "penis" in a not particularly literate hand. It annoyed me because it was the kind of casual stupidity to which girls are subjected in junior high school. A couple of weeks later, I realised that on the title page inside some fool had drawn a large penis and someone else, presumably the woman herself, had used to tippex to try to make it disappear. I was in a quandary about the correct way to handle this sort of assault on the dignity of science and of one young scientist. She being young and female and me being in possession of the object alluded to didn't help matters. With my fuzzy and flabby ethical sense, I decided to do nothing.

Then two days ago, a post-graduate student who has been doing maternity cover for a class in Physics, reported that he also had discovered a dick ("penis" is really too dignified a description for the wretched cartoon) drawn in one of his student's lab-books and asked what he should do about it. That was enough! I took the problem to the course director and we resolved to thrash out a policy on this annoyance and then implement it. That's good, it may take a couple of weeks but we can make something positive out of it.

But, like another of Proust's madelaines, but tasting much more bitter, the whole sorry incident propelled me back nearly fifty years. When I was 10 or 11, a new teacher at school bought into a scheme to fulfill the statutory requirement to have a lesson  in religious education every week.  It was called Search the Scriptures and, for each student each week, came a  flimsy paper listing 6 chapters from the bible: three from the Old Testament and three from the New.  We were required to read these more or less random chapters with sufficient attention to answer six comprehension questions the following week. And so it continued for 2 or 3 years, each week 6 more chapters and 6 questions about last week's assignment.  I was rather good at this, indeed it was one of the few school tasks at which I was better than mediocre - Latin was a nightmare of stress and failure; piano lessons were a painful joke; English was opaque to me. But I probably even now know the bible better than the average biblical fundamentalist knows science. ANNyway, at the end of the first year, I got top marks in my class and was eligible for a Prize. They asked what I wanted and I said "A gold-plated bible . . . please".  A couple of weeks later, at the annual prize-giving, I walked up on stage [the first and only time I got that distinction] and received a little King James Version bible with "gold" leaf on the edge of the pages. Inside the front cover was a sticker with the school crest saying something like 
"Bob T. Scientist / Junior Scripture Prize / Summer 1965"
I still have the bible, but I carefully cut out and burned the dedication page a couple of years later after some miserable bastard, for a jape, decorated the book-plate with a dick and an invitation as to what I might do with it. And you know, I bet the perp of that small-small bullying 'crime' has absolutely no memory of the incident. Indeed, until this last week, nor did I; and my equanimity is quite shook.  So I have a crow to pick with an as yet unidentified student at The Institute.  It's damned hard to type from the fetal position while sucking my thumb.

No comments:

Post a Comment