Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nostalgiapost 2009: I hardly considered myself a troublemaker at that age...

What's Wrong With 'Meep'?
DANVERS — It's no surprise that using bad language in school can get you into hot water. But "meep"?

Danvers High parents recently got an automated call from the principal warning them that if students say or display the word "meep" at school, they could face suspension.
Apparently, there was some sort planned disruption using the word so the reaction was to ban the word itself. Fair enough, a study hall full of teenagers repeating "Meep" over an over again would be quite annoying. They could do the same this with 'Yip if they liked, or any word that sounded sufficiently stupid so I don't see how banning a specific word works any better than simply punishing people for the actual annoyance once they get their disruption over with--but hey, I'm not an educator.

What really got me thinking was the end of the article:
Murray said the matter should be a wake-up call to parents about how kids are using social networking sites.

"I'm not sure parents are aware of what students are getting into on the Facebook sites," Murray said.

In the near future, Murray is planning a student-and-parent forum on the pitfalls of Facebook.
This whole thing made me think of an incident when I was in grade school. We had a kid in the class, Danny, who was there for gym/art/music and extracurricular events, but was homeschooled for all the academic subjects. He and I used to play after school, until roughly about the time I started teaching him joke songs. You remember the ones from elementary school? When little kids replaced the lyrics of traditional songs with silly, sometimes gross or even violent lyrics just to be bad. We'd sing them at recess and after school, whenever the adults were out of earshot, and giggle to each other about how bad we were. In many cases, I knew the bad lyrics before I ever learned the real lyrics or the name of the actual song.

I was humming the tune to one of them as Danny and I were playing one afternoon, and he starts to sing "Oh my eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord..." which took me by surprise. The song I'd been humming was about violently murdering your teacher in response to corporal punishment.

Danny, having been the homeschooled kid and not attending recess or summer camp (Indeed, his father was so strictly religious he didn't attend Vacation Bible Camp, which was the summer day camp in which I learned many sinful facts between scripture lessons. We didn't get up to anything naughty, but damned if we didn't talk about it when the teacher wasn't looking), was completely unaware of any other version of the song. I was one of few children who played with him, and I was also one of the last people I knew to find out the naughty version of anything so I was only too happy to enlighten him.

I'd learned the song myself on the sidelines of a dozen cub scout gatherings to which I'd been dragged because of my mother's commitment to an active role in raising her children. The loaded forty-four song, as I'd come to think of it, was just one of many nuggets of Dark Wisdom gleaned from my brother and his friends. I also learned that Little Girls are effectively invisible when they sit down and pretend to focus all of their attention on combing doll hair.

But I digress. As it happened, Danny was only too happy to sing the new song he learned near where his father could hear. The next thing I know Danny's father is talking to either me or my mother (it's not quite clear in my memory, though his face is) about the kind of violence his children can pick up from other children, and that that is why he homeschools.

I believe that was the last time I ever saw Danny outside of school until he went to college.

It was the first time I ever stopped to think about the other lyrics, and the first time I realized that what I'd been singing for a long time about a teacher beating one of her students, and the student plotting her murder as revenge. I was never a violent child (I just liked to sing and make the older children laugh) so this realization was like being splashed with cold water in the face. I don't think I sang it as much after thinking about it.

It would be years before I realized just how violent the actual Battle Hymn of the Republic lyrics were.

Just food for thought. Something I'd learned from eavesdropping on Boy Scouts, without touching the Internet, through channels monitored carefully by my puritanical mother, is still several hundred times more sinister than what is now cause for a forum on the dangers of Facebook. Maybe this is a sign kids really are getting less violent as we go on. Or adults are getting more skittish.


  1. Oh, I remember those lyrics! We used to sing them all the time on the bus when I was going to elementary school in the late 70s. Then, sometime after Columbine happened, I remember realizing that my whole crew -- hell, the whole class -- of non-violent, reasonably well-adjusted kids would have gotten suspended and put on watch lists.

    Ain't no crime like a thoughtcrime.

  2. Oh heck, we ALL grew up hearing those versions of songs, and to the best of my knowledge, we snickered about it, and went on with our lives.

    Skittish is a good word for what parents are today. Between trying to be bestest buddies with their little darlings, and forgetting to teach them anything in the way of actual manners, it's getting a bit strange out there.

    You kids better get off my lawn right now!

  3. I learned that version from my grandmother (who used to cheerfully threaten to leave us on the side of the road so we had to hitchhike home and would get horribly murdered and dumped in a ditch), not to mention all the dirty versions of every popular song! Kids haven't changed, but the level of monitoring certainly has. Still, monitoring for *actual* child harm has also greatly increased, and I can't feel too bad about that.

  4. You shoulda heard the lyrics we sung to the tune of "Row Row Row Your Boat" on the playground back in the day. Pretty gruesome.

    I couldn't imagine being a kid in school these days. And mostly it's that parents are more skittish now then they were back then - the US certainly hasn't gotten MORE violent in the last 30+ years. It's just that now you've got 24-hour news shows warning you about all of the things your kids "could" be doing. Nevermind that its usually a minority of kids and that I can remember there being kids in my own schools back in the day who did very similar things - clearly it's a crisis!

    Of course back when I was a kid there were similar scares, but they seemed less pervasive. There was a HUGE Satanic Cult scare going on during my middle school days - for a while it seemed like everyone was afraid that Satanic Cults were everywhere trying to brainwash your kids or kidnap them for their own evil purposes. But somehow the current scares seem like they have more impact. I'm not sure why. (When in doubt I blame the 24-hour news cycle, but I'm not sure that's actually the entire story. It does make a convenient scapegoat, though...)

  5. I gotta say, I think Danny's dad did him more harm than you ever did (or, for that matter, could.) To paraphrase Stephen King, it's a warped world out there, and if you don't get at least a few tiny little bends in you young, you'll never be able to cope.