Thursday, December 11, 2008

The b*tch is back

The weatherman told me today would be nice and sunny. He lied.


You know those people who sat right behind you during lecture in undergrad and never shut up? The ones who snorted at everything the professor said and giggled loudly as they debated the intricacies of America's Next Top Model? The ones you imagined would flunk out of school, end up on the street, overdose on crack cocaine, and get run over by a truck as they crossed the street in a drunken stupor? ("And could you please not use your outside voice all the time?")

Well they didn't. Actually they did quite well for themselves, and they are at this very moment preening themselves to be your future physicians. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

As I pondered this fact, distracted from my fervent attempts to pay attention to the front of the class and take intelligible notes by the incessant chatter emanating just to my rear - listening involuntarily to stories of person A's anger management classes (and how person B finds person A's anger oh-so-soothing) - I started to genuinely question the validity of the admissions process. It's funny, because these persons were pondering that same question. Just this morning, they were discussing a friend's disbelief at how certain others could have possibly been admitted to law school. At overhearing this (again, unavoidable because of their unremitting use of the "outside voice"), Yubin and I turned to exchange glances. The same thought had shot simultaneously through both of our minds: "Really? Well we can't believe that you got into med school."

The other day, I turned around during the break and actually asked one of these people, meekly, whether they could please keep it down because it was ever-so-distracting (I had considered being a little bit more quarrelsome, but I had opted for a softer tone - after all, I had made no indication that I had been sitting quietly in my seat for the last month stewing about the volume of my neighbours to the back. They probably had no idea that their chatter was the cause of my mounting exasperation, or that I was exasperated at all). My entreaty was greeted with a blank and piercing stare coupled with some empty nods of acknowledgement. It was an entirely one-sided verbal exchange. In retrospect, I wondered, maybe they did know... and maybe the cold response I received was borne out of deep apathy developed over many undergraduate years of being told to shut-it.


A characteristic of the normal child is he doesn't act that way very often.


Yesterday, I completed my final visit to inner city schools for my Community Health course. It really struck me just how out of control the children were. They were fairly incapable of heeding instruction and had little or no respect for authority. Entire periods could be completed with zero progress to be shown for it. On top of that, many of them were vulgar, disruptive, and openly unkind to their peers. There were a number that were still very keen, pleasant, and earnest... but I felt like it must be difficult for a child to remain that way in such a charged environment.

For instance, we were observing a music class in which the students needed to compose their own lyrics. It was difficult to even get the boys to sit down together (they were virtually bouncing off the walls). When I did manage to get a pair settled, they asked me if I wanted to hear a rap song on terrorism. They then proceeded to recite a verse about breaking into a man's house, shooting a man dead, and then slitting his wife's throat. I was a little bit disturbed, particularly by the hilarity with which they treated the situation.

I suppose, in a way, that's our culture. Gangster culture is hip, disrespect is cool, and kids will be kids (i.e. rowdy). I'm sure I knew more than enough people in elementary and high school who would have found the same song equally awesome. But I recall, even then, a semblance of respect offered to authority - at least to its face.

It made me think about the future, and suddenly I had these overprotective urges with regards to my future Bao Bao. I could picture myself wanting to never let my child go to school - to shield him or her from the broken world beyond home's door. Or being the kind of parent who diligently picks up their kid from school the minute the bell rings to keep them out of trouble. Or maybe just not having kids at all... After all, bad company corrupts good character. And there's a lot of bad company out there these days. But in the end, as I walked the corridors of Finch station, catching glimpses of plump little children in their snowsuits holding parents' loving hands, I realized that probably, one day, I too would want that experience. And when that time comes, all we can do is our very best.

I should be clear, too. The school I visited was an inner city school. I don't blame the children for their behaviour. I know many of them come from impoverished families or broken homes. I know socioeconomic circumstances, inadequate resources, and insufficient attention have contributed to their character. But knowing that does not make the environment any less intimidating.

The teacher for the class I was accompanying shared this insight: She grew up in the inner city area where the school was located. She walked around the area alone all the time - to and from concerts, outings, etc. Today, she has children of her own. Come night time, she said, she would think twice about letting her kids walk by themselves. "Maybe that's just the nature of our society today, though," she remarked. "I think maybe we've just gotten to a point where it doesn't feel safe to let our children go around by themselves anywhere."


Mello said...

oh dearrr! I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds the people behind us extremely annoying!! Whenever they make snotty comments about what the prof is saying (which happens at least every other class), I always feel an urge to turn around and go "you don't have to be here if you don't want to you know, we certainly won't miss you". But I guess it's important to be on good terms with your future collegues...ha.

Yubin said...

i guess our Great Wall of China are in agreement that the girls behind us should sit back.. way back!
I just want to tell them to SHUT IT!!! sigh.
except i know one member of our Great Wall who just finds them "pretty"....!!!
I shall not say who thinks that way for their own safety.

Anonymous said...

What a coincidence. I read this editorial on the NYTimes:

With all the violence on TV, easy availability of graphic details (porn, violence) on the Internet, I wonder how that all these will affect kids development. Remember several years ago when some IT groups advocated for a 1-kid-1-laptop plan for African children? I read that one of the first things these kids did with the computer was to surf porn.

The writer (of the editorial) also wanted to shield her kid from all these bad things happening in the world, but the more she did it, the more her kid asked for the details. I personally think in the end, there is always a positive note/ moral/ something to be learnt in each of these "bad stories". Of course, it take skills to explain to such young minds.