Why must adults humiliate children by making them sing sentimental ballads about institutions they despise? Moreover, why do grown-ups coerce older students to do their dirty work? Forty years ago, I was roped into singing on a talent contest stage at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind. As the adults controlled all aspects of our lives, we had no choice but to suffer punishment or comply. From my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, here’s how that embarrassing evening went.
One of the last events that school year was a talent show, held in the deaf students’ auditorium. The children who were not returning in September were singled out before the rehearsal and Patricia announced to us, “Since you will be leaving Jericho, you’ll have to sing a song. I’ll sing it for you so you can learn the words.”
The lyrics she sang made me wince. The song was one of those saccharine ballads, filled with sentimental longing for old classmates and school days. There was absolutely no way I would ever miss the place which kept me away from my loved ones for the better part of six years. Leaving Jericho was a dream come true as far as I was concerned. My conscience tormented me as I realized Patricia, representing the school, was coercing me to lie concerning my feelings.
The only interesting part of the show, from my point of view, came when a senior boy named Ron played one of his own songs on his electric guitar. He was as close to being a rock star as any one of us could be, making his performance a special moment.
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, there are some students who will be leaving us,” Patricia announced. “We’re sorry to see them go and we wish them every success in life. They’d like to sing a song for you about how they feel about leaving their friends here at Jericho Hill School.”
Somebody began playing the piano as we launched into our selection. My conscience railed against such enforced hypocrisy as I mumbled the lyrics which the rest of the group sang. How could I utter such obvious falsehoods and live with myself? I turned my back and tried to hide my shame behind the other children.
Patricia marched up to me after we left the stage. “You shouldn’t turn your back on the audience. Don’t you know you’ve embarrassed the school?” I couldn’t answer her because my mind was filled with rage.
I felt profound relief once the show ended. As I shuffled up to the dorm, I reassured myself that soon I would be away from this humiliating institution.
In my memoir, I wrote about similar humiliating incidents but I also described the mischief we caused. Blind and partially-sighted children are basically the same as able-bodied kids and we made our fare share of trouble. The http://www.inscribe.org/BruceAtchison website features my two books and my freelance writing work. The page is equipped with PayPal buttons too.
Please also read my www.bruceatchison.blogspot.com page. I publish excerpts from my books there too. On June 28th, I’ll be a guest blogger on http://inscribewritersonline.blogspot.com where I’ll post about a sublime father-son moment I had when I came home from Jericho in June, 1965.