Child labor, estimating the weight of a live cow and why public schools are the real deal

I am the third and youngest child in a family with three children. You’d normally think I was the spoiled little devil, but not really. At least not absolutely. My older brother and sister both went to private schools until they graduated in college. When it was my turn to study though, my parents decided to enroll me in the central public school in our town. They told me studying in a public school is as good as studying in a private one, but I really think they just ran out of money for my education. I’m looking at you, parents.

I studied for seven years in a public elementary school and the entire experience was interesting and weird, with just the right amount of being fucked up. I’ll tell you why.

1. Child labor. When I was in the sixth grade, our livelihood education teacher brought us to a grass-covered empty lot and asked us to clear the area. I thought this was just in preparation for a gardening lesson, until he started bringing shovels and wheelbarrows. We were asked to remove our shoes and start digging deep in the earth. Hours into digging, I learned that we were making a fish pond. Not the teeny weeny kiddie fish pond, but a fucking fish pond. I didn’t know elementary schools double as concentration camps, but I obliged anyway. I was that type of student. So if by any chance you come across my elementary school, check out that fish pond at the back of the Japanese building. It’s one of those things I can put in my resume- I was once a child laborer who made a fish pond.

2. Undershoes. Still on the subject of child labor, my school didn’t have the luxury of having janitors for the class rooms. Janitors in my school only clean common areas, and the task of housekeeping were given to us students. That’s character building for you, spoiled private school brats. One of these tasks is making sure the floor gets a regular polish, so we bring our own floor wax and coconut husks to school and make sure the damn floor’s shiny as shit. You’d know it was a hard day when you see kids with red smelly stuff on their uniforms. Those were badges of honor. To make sure that we keep the floor polished most of the time, our shoes weren’t allowed to make contact with the floor ever. We were ordered to wear undershoes- these things that look like shoe jackets which turn kicks into skating shoes. We loved sliding on the squeaky floor with them on. If you don’t have them you’re forced to stay barefoot all day. Or you can borrow from your classmate who’s got a collection of colorful undershoes. What’s amazing was stores outside our school sold them, like the school administration connived with opportunistic vendors to make an entire undershoes industry.

3. Corporal punishment. Public schools are like little Spartas. Teachers have a sworn duty to cut off the horns of potential devils early on, and this involved physically hurting us just so we don’t turn into entitled brats. When I was in first grade, there was this annoying classmate of mine who kept on picking fights with me and my friends. I told her she lacked breeding, and she cried and told our teacher about it. What followed was my first experience of public flogging. My butt hurt a lot and I cried, but I didn’t apologize to my classmate- I was trained to stick to my principles at an early age. Even when I was in grade six, I still experienced being hit by a broad piece of wood on both hands for a crime as heavy as whispering to my seat mate. That’s right. If the homeroom teacher leaves the class for something, a minion is tasked to list the names of all the noisy and rowdy pupils. Because this is Sparta, the definition of noisy covers everything audible. Rowdy means standing up or giggling. Our teachers had a weird notion of human rights, and when a student tells his/her parents about it, normally the parents will agree with the teacher.

But I was just sharpening my pencil, Ma’am!

4. Superkids factory. Have you seen that story in China where the state grabs your kids and turn them into bordeline bionic superbeings? That’s pretty commonplace in our public school. In our school, when someone is preparing for a quiz bee, a singing competition or a sporting event, the teacher comes up with an entire personalized curriculum for the special student. This involves not attending classes anymore and just preparing ourselves to become winners in whatever competition there is. Usually there are the academic quiz bees, the athletic meets, and competitions as weird as making beautiful straw mats, making perfect button holes and approximating the weight of a live cow. Yes, while you were learning how to make sissy cupcakes in your sissy private school public school kids were trained to estimate the weight of a live fucking cow. For what purpose, you ask? Well imagine going to college and having cow classmates. That would be totally handy especially if your cow friends ask you if they look fat with their outfit for the day. You’d answer, no dear, my estimates say your body fat percentage is still okay. The skill is especially useful for having many cow friends.

5. Teaching kids to be shady as fuck. I’m not going to be all humble here- I was a smart kid in grade school. So smart, that my teacher celebrates whenever I get randomly picked to take the division achievement exam- this thing they use to measure whether the students of a school are smart or if the government is just wasting its money on a generation of dimwits. Students were randomly chosen from each class, then we’d take the exam given by an independent proctor. Since we’re the central public school, we have a sterling reputation to protect. And sometimes the teachers would perform miracles just to preserve that reputation. See, the achievement test picked totally random students- I was chosen only a few times out of the many years it was administered. But in the times where I wasn’t chosen, I still took the test- under a different name. What my teachers did was to select the smartest group of kids in a class and give them new identities- those of the students who cannot differentiate a hand from a foot, but were selected to take the test. That’s right. We were trained to become con fucking artists. And we were very good at it. Before the exam, each smart kid is briefed and given specific instructions to successfully carry out the mission. If a smart kid gets caught, his/her family will be drowned in the school’s fish pond for the giant catfishes to eat. No one got caught from our batch, fortunately. You know why? Because we’re Spartans.

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