Short hairs

Speaking of my expensive education brings to mind a memory from my school days. This would have been in the late sixties, when I was 12 or 13, and I was in a morning maths class. The teacher wrote something on the board and asked me a question which I failed to answer to his satisfaction. So he came over to me, took hold of me by the short hairs in front of my left ear and lifted me by them from my seat. As I dangled there with my eyes watering, he repeated the question until I had answered him correctly

After the class, I remember a boy who didn’t normally have much time for me, gruffly asking me if I was okay, which was nice. It didn’t occur to me to mention this incident to my parents. We were used to these capricious manifestations of adult power, and we accepted them as we accepted bad weather or a toothache. I would have been surprised to learn that I would still be thinking about it after more than forty years.

This isn’t a sob story. I think most people of my generation could come up with something similar or worse (and many younger people too of course) but actually I do think about that incident surprisingly often, and every time I find myself indulging in a fantasy. In my fantasy, I refuse to anwer him, just hang there till he releases me and then pick up my books and walk out.

I wasn’t even close to doing anything of the sort – it was still some years before I became defiant of authority, and even then my defiance to be of a furtive, scatter-gun, self-defeating kind – but I’m quite sure would have learned much more from performing such an act, than from all the maths classes I ever attended.

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