Yesterday, forty years on, I found out what Pi is. I don’t think any of my teachers knew. None of them could ever proffer an explanation. Even when a brave boy complained that all we had was a book full of worked examples, it made no difference.
Mathematics was a stinking joke at secondary school; the hierarchical number one subject against which all were judged. Taught incompetently; Richard Skemp crap and vomit so-called “Understanding Mathematics” – an introverted, alienating and useless diatribe of navel-gazing academician-induced ivory toerag autism that was thrust into the hands of the intelligent by the stealth and nastiness of the power-hungry who were supposed to be helping, developing, teaching.
That these revolting spectacles of inhumanity could ever be placed in a position of authority before children beggars belief as much now as it did then. Their unfairness was rank. To every question asked the response was the same: they called us stupid and failed to explain.
Grammar was worse. The accusative case taught so badly that it was almost unidentifiable in prose and texts. I finally got the hang of that after I had left school by six years. The question was always asked by me; never explained by them. The delicacy and required voice of the vocative case was equally turned into a point of ridicule.
Browbeating us with “headaches” and drunkenness on a Monday morning was part of a routine that included beatings for “having a stupid name” and disappearances to a distant lavatory. Ignorance, incompetence, name-calling, nastiness and violence seem – on reflection – to have been the prerequisites for employment at that particular establishment.
French was grim. One child being beaten for ink splashes on the floor. On another day, I was commanded to bet my few coins against the contents of the teacher’s wallet because I asked for an explanation. “Show me the colour of your money”, he raged uncontrollably.
Art and Pottery also seemed to require frequent slapping and hitting around the head; usually based on false semantics.
Engineering Drawing was worse still – the teacher there a psychopath who would routinely hit and throw things, pull hair and sideburns for a very long time. I recall no censure ever having reached any of these unrestrained individuals.
A History teacher split a boy’s head open with a whistle on a chain. Games staff ranted hit and slapped routinely and were unkind, foul-mouthed and violent both on and off the pitch.
Some pupils caught the bug too and were happy to join in with all of this incredibly brutal life, meting out their own punishments for no reason and with tacit staff approval to boot.
Turning up every day for some became impossible. Others never recovered.
Before it is too late, I will learn Mathematics. I will analyse translate some Latin prose.
This was in the seventies, in the UK.
No names though; I would not like anybody to think that they really hurt me.
Celebrate the internet. Please.
The above is what there is when there isn’t one.