Author’s Note: Last month I published this story regarding an incident with a bully at my high school. Phil Kaveny, author and scholar reacts to it in this response.
Kaveny: I found Brandon Hovey’s blog post fascinating from a sociological and historical perspective. So much in fact that it provoked me into a deep reflection into my own life family and educational experience.
This is especially true since Brandon is a millennial and I am a very early post war baby boomer who grew into the 60’s Vietnam generation though I never served. Brandon is my editor. Blogmaster, friend and colleague though there is as many years separating us 46, as there was between my father Edward Kaveny (1898-1985) and myself. I ask myself since I have spent my life as a student, teacher, or working for UW Madison how much It all has changed, and how much education has been de-valued, and commodified in terms of outcomes.
By the way you should also all read Brandon’s Burgers ,Bloggers, and Cops to see how this all plays out fictionally, as Literary theorist Jane Tompkins’s would say Burgers, Bloggers, and Cops does its cultural and ethical work, which is in as sense but not always different from its literary and esthetic function.
What do I mean by this. Let me explain by telling you a bit about my father who was the oldest son of Big Jim Kaveny a four hundred and twenty pound 6’6” size 22 celluloid collar rich and politically connected Irish Salon Keeper. If what to read more about the Kaveny family business in Pawtucket Rhode Island let me suggest you read my short story Tavern of Lost Souls athttps://philkaveny.wordpress.com/tag/historical-fiction/ for a barely mythical rendition of our family saga.
So, what do I mean by education being devalued in the one hundred and ten years since my grandfather enrolled my father in Layfette Academy in Pawtucket at the age of ten in 1908. My father did not apply himself at first and so as a dose reality my grandfather got my father a summer Job in the Pawtucket Spool factory where he worked for sixty hours a week for ten cents an hour, after that he would have to come, clean out the ashes from the furnace, and of course water the whiskey, which followed the family recipe of adding one barrel of water to four barrels of whisky so the excess profit funded the free lunch.
My father once told me that by the fall of 1908 Greek, Latin, algebra and French, in other words a classical curriculum, taught by Jesuits who were famous for their ability to scale (toss) the entire Iliad (in the original Greek) across the room to bonk and startle any disrupter back to a more attentive mode was looking a lot better than fulltime the spool factory for the rest of his life. But it was not like he got off easy he still had to clean out the automatic furnace stoker and haul out the ashes.
However, by this time my father was captivated by classic Greek so much in fact that he forgot his furnace cleaning duties. My grandfather not without sense humor sneaked up behind my father with a full barrel of ashes, and dumped them on the young scholar’s head, just to get his attention. Just at this time I can’t find the records of my father’s enrollment in the College of The Holy Cross in 1914, as a freshman, probably a few days before his sixteenth birthday, but I think bullying from other students was the least of his problems. Turn of the 20th century Immediate Post Great war America was a kick ass world, and between the Iliad scaling Jesuits, the spool factory, and my grandfather’s ash barrel, my father picked up something which equipped, within eighteen years of being a ten-year machine hand to becoming the youngest political editor in American Newspaper history.
This was going to be a different piece but it has taken a slant of its own We Vietnam Era Boomers even if had the right skin color and zip code found out the hard way that a high school education was not the fast track to the American Dream that we had all assumed. The other thing we observed was childhood with being and is even more so and the past being colonized.
One me cherished memories of my father is sharing time with him in the state office BLG at one west Wilson street in Madison after he was bounced out of the newspaper business. That was where he his office was located where he headed a state agency. Some said his auxiliary of was two blocks down the street in the basement bar of The ELKs club where he was often known to take lunch from eleven to two in the afternoon.
When I was a cute little fat boy I spent a lot time at his office on weekends. And he would be watching doing whatever we cute little fat boys do. He would sing a very off-key Laurel and Hardy version of Toyland. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIxAslwBQmA What I mean to say is we both knew cute little fat boys don’t stay way unless maybe they a gland problem, and the border to Toyland was to be closed forever for both of us as it was. Yet in the world of play dates Helicopter parents, baby Einstein’s, and soccer moms that president Trump should be building that fifty-foot wall between Toyland and parenthood, rather than Mexico and the US.
I what I like about Brandon’s post is really two things his comparison of high school to prison which could come right out of Michelle Foucault Discipline and Punish and the comparison of the Bully to the fascist Mussolini. In a sense, he comes of age and confronts the fascist who at the base is an immoral inconsiderate coward just like El Douche Bag who ended up strung upside down from a beam in a gas station. To say it another way Brandon educated the bully that his actions had consequences. That is what education should really consist in its most morally real aspect.
May 11, 2017