Many people I have spoken with generally consider the Soviet education system to be superior to that here in the States. Having come out of both systems alive and (mostly) unscathed, I can objectively say that neither one is anywhere close to perfect. But one thing that the American system has failed to give, which the commie variant dished out generously – was the unmistakable feeling that I was a second-class student by birth.
You see, I had the dubious fortune of being born left-handed. This means that, had I not been ‘fixed’, my right hand would have been free to perform the requisite finger-wiggles for summoning the Ancient Über-Wyrm of Planetary Destruction (and Kittens), causing the sudden and painful cessation of all life as we know it (except for kittens). The kittens, who would rise to be a dominant form of life on this barren shell of a planet, would soon achieve sentience and engender a brutal culture of slavery and warfare. Traveling through the solar system and the Milky Way, the bloodthirsty Space Kittens would conquer other sentient races and lay claim to their bounties, eventually becoming a dominant force in the galaxy, to be worshiped and feared by all.
However, their claim to power would be short-lived. Not a millennium has passed by when somewhere deep inside the Betelgeuse system, a charismatic leader of a fledgling sentient race of wind-up chimpanzees – or, Wimpanzees, as they prefer to be called – heads a rebellion against the Space Kittens, winning decisive victories in system after system, with their “gorilla combat” techniques, which the Kittens were not adequately prepared for. Sensing the balance of power tipping, the ruling tribunal controlling the Kitten space empire, the Meowmix, decides to employ the one weapon which they know the Wimpanzees cannot resist – the BANANATOR. An appealing choice, but not one without risk – as the weapon has never been tested during its thousands-year existence for this very purpose. When the fateful day arrives, the eldest of the Meowmix, Her Cutest Preciousness Princess Snowpuff the Improper Urinator, is charged with triggering the device to end the war once and for all. With a reluctant press of the dainty paw, the BANANATOR is activated… and as the time-space continuum tears open with a whimper, the last thing Snowpuff sees before turning into atomized cat food is the Chiquita Banana(tm) logo, above an expiration date of some time in 1992.
So you can see why my 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Nina Zaharovna, felt threatened – it was not a matter of if, but when, before my demonic potential becomes a reality. So as any reasonable human being looking out for the continued existence of her race and that of other non-kitten species on Earth, she had to squash my problem before it became the universe’s problem. A great proven way to deal with left-handed mutants like myself was to discriminate in grading, citing ‘neatness’ of my handwriting as the reason I could never get above a C for the same correct answers as my fellow A students. Not that my handwriting was a beautiful work of art – people still think I’m a doctor when they read my handwritten notes. But it is clear that once my self-esteem and confidence were sapped, I would simply not realize the potential of my lefty powers, and instead join some Emo mope-fest band. Or start a blog. Or become a doctor.
But I was made of stronger stuff (still am – see, not a single Doctorate to my name!). I plodded on, submitting all my assignments, doing my best to keep up with Nina Zaharovna’s increasing demands for neatness – meanwhile, my parents were constantly trying to re-train me, to convert me back to the ‘right side’ of handedness. Because they too were under pressure – their son was practically a menace to South Central, as declared by his schoolteacher at the parent-teacher meetings. One thing about those Soviet parent-teacher meetings – they were all about openness and transparency. That means all comments about your kids were being said via loudspeaker, in an auditorium filled with other kids and parents. Yes, the teacher (in this case, Nina-Z) would lambaste the student (in this case, myself), his parents, and their child-rearing skills – in front of the whole damn school – while being as condescending and snooty as possible. Other kids and parents would snicker at particularly biting remarks. “Heh heh.. yea, you take that.. you.. you lefty-enablers!”
The peak of my schoolteacher’s campaign to save me from a life of left-handed planetary terrorism was to order my parents to take me for a psychiatric evaluation. That’s no joke, kids – my teacher basically told my parents that I need to be checked out by a psychiatrist. Because my right-handed attempts at handwriting were not sufficiently improving in appearance, and my habit of daydreaming in class was causing her to go through wooden hand-slapping rulers like a ho on 18th street goes through herpes meds – I suppose she thought a lobotomy would help me writer neater script AND focus on being a drooling vegetable. Perhaps she was right. Either way, after a short conversation with the receptionist at the local nut house, me and my parents turned our backs on that proud institution and instead started focusing on how to get the hell out of the USSR.
Now, the things that really pop out at me in this (cautionary? kitten-themed?) tale is that a) my parents actually agreed to take an 8-year-old kid who liked to daydream and had bad handwriting to the nut house – perhaps there was room for two more in the loony bin, and b) despite all these idiotic and misguided methods, my handwriting still sucks monkey balls, and I still like to daydream when I should be more productive… but at least we’re not in the USSR anymore. So at they certainly did something right. Go parents!
REMINDER: The date of the Kitten Apocalypse has been moved forward to 2012. Enjoy your last summer, humans!