Land of a Thousand Dunces
"Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight."
- Albert Schweitzer
Apart from being a hellish soul-crushing gulag, the Junior High (now, apparently, an Elementary School. By the way, the student population was predominantly Black and the school mascot was a panther) I attended was also one of those "glass box" buildings that were popular from the early sixties through the middle of the seventies. While the merits, or lack thereof of this style of architecture have been discussed in Tom Wolfe's From Bauhaus to Our House, one thing was pretty clear to even my pre-adolescent mind: building a glass Junior High School is a pretty fuckin' stupid thing to do for some pretty fuckin' obvious reasons.
This point was driven home each September as we were herded into the auditorium on the first day of school and regaled with horror stories about past students who tripped while running in the halls, crashed through a class panel and spent the rest of the semester in the ICU. At the end of the safety lecture/theatre of the macabre our Principal (who only had one arm - but that's another story) would ask if anyone had any questions. I was always tempted to raise my right hand (something our Principal couldn't do) and ask, "Um...just who the fuck builds a Junior High primarily out of glass?"
Seriously. Hundreds of people must have looked at the architect's sketches (they must've been in the newspaper, for the love of crap!), blueprints, and models and not a single person had the common sense to say, "You do know that this building is a killing machine, right? I mean it did occur to anyone else that at some point some budding bully is going to shove his victim through one of these floor-to-ceiling panes of glass?" I should also point out that the restrooms were designed with plenty of "blind spots" for the benefit of any of the larger kids who might feel compelled to beat and rob some of the smaller kids. Subsequently I didn't take a leak inside that building once in the three years that I was there. The place was pretty much like an episode of OZ, but with slightly fewer incidents of anal rape. Oh, and there was lots of jagged metal jutting from the bleachers in the gym.
The point is that the endless capacity of human beings for stupidity has fascinated me from an early age. And that's what we'll be taking a look at over the few days: in particular, Biblical stupidity and bad, really bad, archeology. Good times.
Meanwhile, the Cato Institute claims that Americans are getting smarter.