Silly Grins

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chapter 4

“What’s it like, teaching in Japan?”

Head tilts forward with a hint of a grin, eyebrow raised, “You ever read Orwell?”

Wide-eyed now, “As in 1984? Big Brother, Room 101… Thought Police!”

Chuckles, then breaks into a full smile, “That’s society. For understanding what goes on around the ‘business end’ of education, A Clergyman’s Daughter is a good read, especially for people on the teaching side of that ‘profession’.”

“No. Haven’t read it. By the way you talk about it, it reminds me of that gentleman’s joke the jowly one told… something about merely negotiating a price.”

“Well, it can be like that. What I’m thinking about is Dorothy’s story, particularly Chapter 4.” 


“Here, let me try. Will only take a few minutes. Anyone who has done the rounds should be able to get every line. Here,  let me pour you another one."

 IPA image of cleansing beverage 'borrowed' from here.

In a soft, reassuring tone, "It’s on the house. Now, just sit back, relax, and get ready to watch the thoughts scroll.”

* * * * *
How it had all been settled so quickly, and what kind of school it could be that would take on a total stranger, and unqualified at that, in the middle of the term, Dorothy could hardly imagine. (163)
Nobody knew what the feud was about, not even Mrs Creevy or Mr Boulger themselves; it was a feud that they had inherited from earlier proprietors of the two schools. In the mornings after breakfast they would stalk up and down their respective back gardens, beside the very low wall that separated them, pretending not to see one another and grinning with hatred. (164)
You could tell her [Boss Creevy] at a glance for a person who knew exactly what she wanted, and would grasp it as ruthlessly as any machine; not a bully exactly—you could somehow infer from her appearance that she would not take enough interest in you to want to bully you—but a person who would make use of you and then throw you aside with no more compunction than if you had been a worn-out scrubbing-brush. (165)
‘Well, now, to come back to what I was saying, Miss Strong was all right as a teacher, but she didn’t come up to my ideas on what I call the MORAL SIDE…Miss Strong, Miss Brewer— well, she had what I call a weak nature. You don’t get on with girls if you’ve got a weak nature. The end of it all was that one morning one little girl crept up to the desk with a box of matches and set fire to Miss Brewer’s skirt. Of course I wasn’t going to keep her after that. In fact I had her out of the house the same afternoon—and I didn’t give her any refs either, I can tell you!’

‘You mean you expelled the girl who did it?’ said Dorothy, mystified. ‘What? The GIRL? Not likely! You don’t suppose I’d go and turn fees away from my door, do you? I mean I got rid of Miss Brewer, not the GIRL. (166)
On top of the wardrobe, when she was putting her clothes away, she found a cardboard box containing no less than nine empty whisky bottles—relics, presumably, of Miss Strong’s weakness on the MORAL SIDE. (167-8)
She sliced the two eggs into thin strips, and then served them in such a way that Dorothy received about two-thirds of an egg. With some difficulty Dorothy spun out her fraction of egg so as to make half a dozen mouthfuls of it, and then, when she had taken a slice of bread and butter, she could not help glancing hopefully in the direction of the dish of marmalade. But Mrs Creevy was sitting with her lean left arm—not exactly ROUND the marmalade, but in a protective position on its left flank, as though she suspected that Dorothy was going to make an attack upon it. Dorothy’s nerve failed her, and she had no marmalade that morning—nor, indeed, for many mornings to come.(169)
For instance, there was her avarice over money. It was the leading interest of her life. There are two kinds of avaricious person— the bold, grasping type who will ruin you if he can, but who never looks twice at twopence, and the petty miser who has not the enterprise actually to MAKE money, but who will always, as the saying goes, take a farthing from a dunghill with his teeth. Mrs Creevy belonged to the second type. By ceaseless canvassing and impudent bluff she had worked her school up to twenty-one pupils, but she would never get it much further, because she was too mean to spend money on the necessary equipment and to pay proper wages to her assistant.(179)
So she sat still, with pink humiliated face, amid the circle of parents, and presently her anger turned to misery, and she realized that she was going to begin crying if she did not struggle to prevent it. But she realized, too, that if she began crying it would be the last straw and the parents would demand her dismissal. To stop herself, she dug her nails so hard into the palms that afterwards she found that she had drawn a few drops of blood. (192)
‘You’re not to think as I can’t do without you, mind,’ proceeded Mrs Creevy. ‘I can pick up teachers at two a penny any day of the week, M.A.s and B.A.s and all. Only the M.A.s and B.A.s mostly take to drink, or else they—well, no matter what—and I will say for you you don’t seem to be given to the drink or anything of that kind. I dare say you and me can get on all right if you’ll drop these new-fangled ideas of yours and understand what’s meant by practical school-teaching. So just you listen to me.’(193)
And though some of them are better than others, and a certain number, probably, are better than the council schools with which they compete, there is the same fundamental evil in all of them; that is, that they have ultimately no purpose except to make money. Often, except that there is nothing illegal about them, they are started in exactly the same spirit as one would start a brothel or a bucket shop.(197)
Only the tiny minority of ‘recognized’ schools—less than one in ten—are officially tested to decide whether they keep up a reasonable educational standard. As for the others, they are free to teach or not teach exactly as they choose. No one controls or inspects them except the children’s parents—the blind leading the blind.(198)
For over a fortnight Dorothy was quite penniless, for Mrs Creevy had told her that she couldn’t pay her her term’s wages ‘till some of the fees came in’.(202)
The last week came, and the dirty farce of ‘exams’, was carried through. The system, as explained by Mrs Creevy, was quite simple. You coached the children in, for example, a series of sums until you were quite certain that they could get them right, and then set them the same sums as an arithmetic paper before they had time to forget the answers; and so with each subject in turn. The children’s papers were, of course, sent home for their parents’ inspection. And Dorothy wrote the reports under Mrs Creevy’s dictation, and she had to write ‘excellent’ so many times that—as sometimes happens when you write a word over and over again—she forgot how to spell it and began writing in ‘excelent’, ‘exsellent’, ‘ecsellent’, ‘eccelent’.(206)
Thereafter she had marmalade for breakfast every morning. And in other ways Mrs Creevy’s manner became—not indeed, genial, for it could never be that, but less brutally offensive. There were even times when she produced a grimace that was intended for a smile; her face, it seemed to Dorothy, CREASED with the effort. About this time her conversation became peppered with references to ‘next term’. It was always ‘Next term we’ll do this’, and ‘Next term I shall want you to do that’, until Dorothy began to feel that she had won Mrs Creevy’s confidence and was being treated more like a colleague than a slave.(213)
‘And after that,’ added Mrs Creevy, ‘I’ve got a little something as I want to say to you.’ Dorothy’s heart stirred. Did that ‘little something’ mean the longed-for rise in wages? It was just conceivable. Mrs Creevy produced a worn, bulgy leather purse from a locked drawer in the dresser, opened it and licked her thumb.

‘Twelve weeks and five days,’ she said. ‘Twelve weeks is near enough. No need to be particular to a day. That makes six pounds.’ She counted out five dingy pound notes and two ten-shilling notes; then, examining one of the notes and apparently finding it too clean, she put it back into her purse and fished out another that had been torn in half. She went to the dresser, got a piece of transparent sticky paper and carefully stuck the two halves together. Then she handed it, together with the other six, to Dorothy.

‘There you are, Miss Millborough,’ she said. ‘And now, will you just leave the house AT once, please? I shan’t be wanting you any longer.’(214)

* * * * *  

"Anyway, it's all familiar to me. Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to start cleaning up... evening is coming."

"No, you can take your time... just got some other things that need to get worked out." 


Material referenced from  PDF of  A Clergyman's Daughter electronically 'got' from in Canada 'n says it's considered public domain in Canada. So it's gotta' be legal 'cept if you're livin' in the US. Which I ain't. 


  1. Oh my, an Orwell book I'd not even heard of, much less read. I am outdone. On a collection of his essays on my Kindle at present. Apart from a few of them, shocking how up to date they seem.

    1. "A Clergyman's Daughter" lay dormant for a long time. The novel was 'found' in a box containing a number of books which included "Our Man in Havana", "Lolita", and "Going to Meet the Man". I had no idea who placed those books in the corner of the room. By all accounts, no one in the house seemed to indicate or show the wisdom of having read such stories... except maybe for the soft spoken solicitor. The box was merely remnants of what had been a junk-room until I was taken in for a short period of time by a generous family. That's all.

      Outdone? That is something I don't understand. I applaud people who go to school and do well there. However, those accolades are reserved for folks who understand what a privilege such an environment is. People who don't 'get that' are the ones I consider the most damaging once they get out.

      If you do feel the 'need to read', Chapter 4 is a story in and of itself. Dorothy really does inspire the minds of the children under her care, at least in the beginning. That bit wasn't included in this post due to the time it would have required to present the ideas in a more coherent and fluid fashion. Also, the post would have been just too damn long for my liking.

      Apparently Orwell 'did his time' as a teacher. It shows.

  2. Spooky indeed!

    My god reading the excerpts it rings all too true from one of our high schools that is in "program improvement" and the parents are threatening to implement the 'parent trigger'. Which could lead to a for-profit charter school (sounds like it would be run like Mrs. Creevy's institution) or a shut down of the school.

    Both of those options will fail to meet student needs or help the school in any manner. Right now the school I am talking about is trying to raise test scores by your listed reference to page 206 in order to get out of "program improvement".... *sigh* my little sister works for the school in question and I hear about all the nonsense they do trying to get scores up except what is needed: REAL teaching.

    I swear if you told them they had to dance in the nude under a full moon and sacrifice a calf in order to get scores up I am sure they would do it believing it is what will fix the problem. The problem lies with complacent teachers dragging down the efforts of the teachers worth their weight in gold AND lack of parental follow through.

    Yes you send your kids to school to learn but if you don't get on their ass about studying it is equally your fault they are failing.

    Bah I better get off my soapbox and illegally read A Clergyman's Daughter.

    1. The first thing American needs to do is line all the 'libertarians' against the wall and shoot them: well, just the hypocritical wealthy ones relying on America's military, politicians, jails, infrastructure, etc. to make their lucre and not themselves share it. Libertarians who live in a log-cabin in Alaska alone mean nothing to anyone so leave them alive in their delusions.

    2. When true bells ring, their resonance is really hard to ignore.

      Some of my best teachers in life have been the ones who, unlike Dorothy, kept doing what worked for the students in their ward. Yeah, the real teaching. Real teachers aren't always welcome, especially when it comes to institutions.

      Talk about parents, some parents are like that everywhere. While wishing they didn't exist can sometimes horrifically entertaining, having to deal with them is not. Then again...

      The previous response, to Ant's comment, sums up what I wanted to say about Chapter 4. Since there's space, I'll add another layer.

      Dorothy's character is not unlike what I perceive around me in terms of what happens to a lot of women here. Listening to the laments of those who work the hardest, while taking the least credit (or at least not giving it to themselves) is hard not to find as irritating as traditional Japanese glass wind chimes. Not cool. Not soothing.

      While I find online summaries to be helpful to check my understanding of a book I read maybe two decades ago, if you are tempted, I would not recommend reading one till maybe after you are done.

      I read the book at a time in my life where I had so few distractions and little stress that I do not remember having any dreams for a period of what must have been close to a year.


    3. Above comment intended for Susie. Don't know how Ant's jumped the que. Oh well.

      Lining up Libertarians is as easy as herding cats. Not to mention that they'd be packin'.

    4. You can lure cats, see first listed item:

      You may end up herding more than just cats with this approach though.

      My family is comprised of Dorothy's... I think with the exception of 2 siblings my entire family works in education. And of my siblings, 2 and soon 3 of them have children in public schools. I would end up being one of the cooky parents that would drive their kid half an hour to put them in a Montessori school or quit my job to home school them and have them in social activities so I don't end up with a Norman Bates or some other unfortunate fictional character.

    5. The goods and services would have to be advertised as tax free (to keep the Libertarian's interested). Although there might have a few side effects. But nothing more than what a Bloody Mary and a shot of penicillin could cure.

      I did maybe six months at a private school once and thought it was bogus. The teachers didn't know how to teach, and the kids assumed an 'elitist' attitude that rubbed me the wrong way. It was a Chri$tian school full of lily-white kids who reflected their parent's fears, anger, and prejudices.

      Home schooled kids seem to be a lot more 'with it' than those who have been run through a crowded public system. Some of the brightest people I know were not educated in the mainstream. Personally, I don't like it when the confined classroom social environment takes precedence over learning.

      Which is exactly what I see happening here in the junior high schools. The system has been deliberately set up with socialization trumping education by a long shot. A form of nationalized catechism designed to train for obedience.

      Still, the system is not perfect nor is it all powerful. The redneck/conservative attitude of the administration is the biggest problem in our area.

      If it weren't for the Dorothy factor, this place would fall apart.

  3. When you said Dorothy's story, I was thinking Wizard of Oz. Also appropriate for teaching in Japan.

    1. Hearts, brains, courage... people have their reasons for following that road. Some people just want to find Toto... maybe enjoy a little peace and quiet.