The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet. –Aristotle
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER TEN: PART FORTY-FOUR: KINGDOM COME
“Nowadays, a good henchman is hard to find, Yob. You know what I blame? The schools. Time was when you’d get pounded into you the whole round of readin’, writin’, and cipherin’ to the rule of three. Back then, they hired real men to conduct high school–not some little slip of a girlie. The Master had a strong whip hand, and he kept it well primed. Schoolteachers of yore weren’t afraid of basting a whippersnapper with a stout hickory rod when they grew snippy and peckish. Sure, it left some Yobs with a lifelong hatred of schoolin’, but it made an impression on the many other Yobs who pissed their pants every time the teacher drew near with his unforgiving stare. Why, there was some shavers who could read Latin and Greek by the time they were eight. That’s how terrified they were! Back in the good old days, the Teacher warn’t no milksop. He would beat some good old fashioned horse sense into a Yob, and there weren’t no two words about it.
“Not no more. All that classical learnin’ has gone the way of the passenger pigeon. Nowadays, not only do people not know how to spell or write, but they can’t even talk correctly. That is one reason why my grifting game is taking a beating–nowadays there just aren’t enough confederates around who can keep up a smooth line of patter and engage an educated gent in conversation. That’s what’s all important, you know. A good grifter should be able to talk politics and religion with the menfolk, and fine arts and literature with the ladyfolk. And I’m not forgettin’ sports and newspaper funnies for the more simpleminded, and the kiddies.
“Kids these days are rotten–readin’ dime novels and comic papers and newspaper scandal sheets and other such lurid trash, instead of attending to their studies. If they spend less time smacking a ball around and more time cracking those books, they may yet amount to something–but don’t hold your breath. I am disgustipated by those fools. It’s a wonder that any of my dodges whatsoever ever come to fruition, when you consider how inattentive and lackadaisical most of the green yellofs I have to work with really are. The fools are not only wet behind the ears, and can barely express themselves in plain English, but they don’t even know what a whole lot of nines are. In my day it was different. You had better of learned your lesson for that day, or else it would go hard for your knuckles. And that was if you were lucky. Most schoolteachers weren’t a bit averse to dustin’ your britches for you. Now, some milksops say that this is the wrong way to teach students their letters, but I say that I came through it all right and it didn’t warp my outlook any.
“No, I fancy that a good grifter has to know just a little bit about a great many things, as well as a lot about quite a few things. But where do you learn how to feed this spirit of curiosity? Some say the schools are just factories for turning out little industrial soldiers, but I say that any man who is well grounded in the basics can learn to do just about anything. There’s plenty of fools out there who are good at one or two things, but who fly all to pieces when presented with an unexpected challenge. Learning to deal with situations on the fly is the hallmark of any good education. People may resent you because you always have an answer for everything, but that’s their tough luck that they were stupid and inattentive scholars and didn’t pay attention to their Masters. You have to have an aptitude for this game, sure, and good people sense is the number one thing you got to have, but you will be forever held back in my bailiwick if you don’t have good grift sense and you are not with it and for it. And where else do you learn how to fool the world but in the classroom?
“Because that’s what a good teacher does–he fools the world. Imagine getting paid to lecture little Yellofs, like a punk. Yet schoolmasters manage to do it. They’re like preachers, for the most part–necessary and useful, but parasites all the same. I’ll tell you how I came to this conclusion. I taught school myself, for a couple of months. It’s easy. You talk to the wee ones like you would talk to a disgraceful hound. It’s a certain bloodthirsty tone of voice that you can easily learn. Then, all you have to do is read from a book. You already have all the answers, and you ask the little Yellofs to recite their lessons by rote. That’s basically all there is to it. Ahh, yes, teachers are con men, just like so many of us. Show me a teacher who isn’t, and I’ll show you a schoolmaster who ought to be wearing a dunce cap his own self. Only difference being, grifters have to work hard to drive the suckers into their nets, while a schoolmaster has himself a ready-made audience. Furthermore, a good schoolmaster can set one half of his class against the other half, so that each half polices the other. And he’s a man’s man, too–he’s good at sports, and he has intelligent opinions about everything. He’s not just some drone, or some fussy old woman, like so many of the teachers today. Problem is, it’s hard to hire the kind of man you want and pay him the sort of mingy salary that most schoolteachers rake in. Fact is, in this country, almost everything that has something to do with books and learning has the stink of premature failure. It’s different over in Europe, where an eddicated man is called Doctor and treated with all sorts of pomp. Hereabouts, the modern day pedagogue is all too often some washed-up drunk. That’s why the students are no good anymore. Not like back in my day.”
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