If there’s one big lesson we’ve learned from the latest Republican debates, it’s that this nation desperately needs more women in politics.
And not just any women. What front-runners Trump, Cruz and Rubio badly require to upgrade their discourse are a few battle-hardened sixth-grade teachers.
I’m talking about true Old School ninja schoolmarms — the female professionals who have earned their sergeant stripes keeping the peace in classes inhabited by generations of typical preteen boys. While girls in grade six have their own knack for pushing the limits, males of that particular age generate the most provocative challenges. Just ask their teachers!
Last week’s Republican debate on Fox News virtually cried out for a no-nonsense veteran educator — a grown-up adult well-versed in handling the hormone-soaked horse race among jockeying pre-adolescents … a wise woman immune to their schoolboy taunts and tactics, one who can strike the fear into the hearts of rowdy juveniles with little more than a raised eyebrow and a hint of dire consequences.
Bad language in her presence? Never. The traditional pedagogue I have in mind has long convinced half-grown potty-mouths that when she threatens to wash out their mouths, she’s not really kidding about that bar of soap.
Sixth-grade teachers know all too well how quickly male yearlings can be distracted from their better selves by the mere hint of the forbidden. My mother, who long fought those wars, used to laugh about breaking up knots of little men gathered around the big Webster’s dictionary in the back of her classroom, snickering and elbowing each other as they looked up “dirty words.”
Ah, for more innocent times! Today, the Internet has definitely raised the stakes on that callow sport, but the temptation can’t be denied: It’s just fun for little boys to talk nasty.
How bad can it get when you’re talking about adult men acting out like a bunch of little boys? Last week’s debate combatants clearly plumbed new depths. As North Dakota humorist Tony Bender wrote afterward, “Bought some gloves today. I felt a great deal of pressure to buy the largest pair.”
Buffeted by waves of blooming testosterone, boys of a certain age — and political candidates intoxicated by the prospect of the presidency — compete to jostle and shove their way to the front of the pack. After all, that’s the whole theme of grade-school sports: who’s fastest, who’s biggest, who’s baddest. “Who’s loudest” clearly makes the list, too. Oddly, “who’s smartest” seldom seems to matter much at this stage.
More than 60 years ago, British author William Golding wrote a classic young-adult novel that deftly predicted the political scene we’re witnessing today. No, it wasn’t “1984” (though that was prescient, too). Don’t you remember reading his classic, “Lord of the Flies”?
Stranded by a plane crash on a Pacific island paradise, a contingent of perfectly normal young Brits set out to govern themselves for the common good. But unloosed from grown-up guidance and support, most of the boys quickly devolve into a pack of brutal, primitive savages.
The story climaxes when the mob’s loudest and most remorseless voices incite the rest to hunt their last rival. He stumbles and falls. Then, just as the pack closes in for the kill, an adult finally appears. They revert to the children they truly remain, sniveling and sobbing, in the blink of an eye.
In Golding’s story, the grown-up who breaks the spell is a British naval officer. In real life, I think, a savvy sixth-grade teacher would do the trick.
Our educator would instantly recognize the lengths to which these would-be presidents will resort to become America’s ultimate alpha male.
She’d know all about the boyish art of empty boasts — the kind of crowing she hears every day on the playground and in the gym, not to mention the campaign trail.
She’d be an old hand at dealing with bullies. After years of watching the loudest and meanest pick on their more vulnerable peers — kids who are often brighter and more capable than the torturers, but hamstrung by being different, being less popular and being constrained by better manners — she can well defend the defenseless.
Our warrior teacher, too, would have an instinct for spotting who didn’t read his assignment. All she needs to do is ask the class to write 100 words. Unprepared, the least ready will try to baffle her with baloney:
“Look. We can bring the American dream back. That I will tell you. We’re bringing it back. OK? And I understand what you’re saying. And I get that from so many people. ‘Is the American dream dead?’ They are asking me the question, ‘Is the American dream dead?’ And the American dream is in trouble. That I can tell you. OK? It’s in trouble. But we’re going to get it back and do some real jobs. How about the man with that beautiful red hat? Stand up! Stand up! What a hat!” (Actual excerpt from speech by Donald Trump, Rochester, N.H., 9/17/15.)
That’s 92 words. All the little bluffer needs to add is “The Very, Very, Very, Very, Very, Very End.”
So what other youthful missteps might our battle-hardened educator be ready to correct in the interest of higher learning?
— Boasting about who’s the meanest, toughest, “baddest” boy on the playground.
— Telling whoppers.
— Teasing girls about their looks.
— Insulting each other’s mothers.
— Comparing the size of their nether appendages.
—Oh … and booger jokes.
Teachers, your time has come. Put aside your lesson plans and toss your hats into the ring. America clearly needs your discipline and your sanity! And don’t forget to bring along that bar of soap.