Thursday, January 07, 2016

Reeling and Writhing: Trauma by Public Education

"Reeling and Writhing of course, to begin with," the Mock Turtle replied, "and the different branches of arithmetic - ambition, distraction, uglification, and derision." (Lewis Caroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)

I don't remember when, but I learned how to read and write well before I started attending public school.  The home I grew up in had bookshelves holding many hundreds of books.  I read many of them before I started school, never realizing that they were intended for more mature readers.

There was a chalk board in one of the bedrooms, and we were always writing things on it.  I knew how to write my own name.

And therein lies the problem.  I knew who I was - well before public school teachers presumed to teach me different.  Although learning at home was a good start to my personal education experience, when I started attending public school, it all came off the rails.  For what I have learned though my life, I gratefully thank my parents.  Public school teachers taught me more bad habits than good.

Not such a problem in kindergarten.  As I recall, we didn't have to do much writing in class. And no reading at all.  I read at home.  A LOT.

My first grade teacher at Aurelia Pennekamp Elementary School was Mr. Marcus.  I thought he was a mean man.

He insisted that my name was David.  I knew it wasn't.  Everyone who knew me called me "Jimmy".

Later on in my life I realized that most institutions mechanically and thoughtlessly recorded my formal name as "David James Cobabe", invariably shortened to just "David Cobabe", with no recognition of the fact that by preference or tradition, some are called by their middle name.  The nearly universal first-name-centric bigotry continues to irritate me to this day.

Mr. Marcus insisted that I should not be writing with my left hand, and consistently censured me for attempting to use my left hand.  He tried to "cure" me.  Left-handed writing in the first grade was doubly problematic.  Not only was left-handedness treated unkindly, but the coarse paper medium and soft pencils tended to smear across the page as lefties tended to drag their pudgy fist across the paper.  Throughout the first grade, the side of my left hand was chronically discolored shiny gray, from a soft pencil smear, while my handwriting consistently earned me poor marks, no matter how laboriously I tried.

With my messy and smudged printing, I could never please that teacher, though I was trying to perform the way I had learned at home.  It was my first encounter with such an authority figure that tried to force me to change my personal habits.  It was an emotional confrontation, and has colored my perception ever since.

One of our first grade learning exercises was group reading.  Students would arrange their little chairs in a circle facing in, and take turns around the circle, attempting to read a few sentences out loud.  I chafed impatiently as other children stumbled along, slowly reading the simple texts, almost incoherently at times.  I was certain that they were putting on a stupid act just to infuriate me.  Nobody with even a minimal level of reading skills could be that pathetic.  Usually I had read silently ahead though the whole book in just a few minutes while the rest of the students were still perusing the first few pages.  They were always pointless little pretend books anyway, unlike the interesting literature I was discovering at home.  "Fun with Dick and Jane" was never any fun.

My own impatience with other students was my downfall.  I became bored, and ceased from paying attention.  This practice turned into a lifelong habit - my biggest lesson from public education.

I also suffer from a serious problem with respect for authority.  Particularly when the authority seems to come from someone manifestly less capable, especially in cognitive skills.  I have long been an observer of the Dunning Kruger effect, even before it became the subject of an academic study.  And I blame my first grade school teacher in part.

Additionally, I have struggled for my whole life with public difficulties related to my last name.  "Cobabe" has been mangled, misspelled, and mispronounced in every conceivable manner.  And quite a few that are not.  "Cobain", "Cobage", "Cabbage" among some of the creative renderings.  I have been named "Co-bob-a" by any number of Spanish-speaking associates.  From time to time, I get solicitations from porno sites to join the party, celebrating a more perverted twist on the "Cobabe" name.  The more practical telephone contacts almost inevitably ask how to they should spell "Cobabe", and almost always have trouble with pronunciation.  I can generally tell when they are reading my name for the first time from a document or a computer display.  That they frequently think my name is "David" is an additional giveaway.

When I hear that my last name is an unusual one, I frequently reply that it is quite common in my family.  The typical nonplussed non-comprehension reaction seldom fails to gratify my passive-aggressive inclination.

I have grown impatient and intolerant of careless or deliberate misspelling, whether my own or from others.  I am adamant that we should always take note and correct our mistakes immediately, or that we should do this for others.  Not as a way of showing off my superiority in most cognitive skills.   That was never in question.

I want to make it a point that I respect other people enough to learn how to spell their name correctly. My own feelings have been hurt enough times that I am hypersensitive about it.  Not presuming to be the spelling Nazi.  Just a simple gesture of common respect.

One nit-picky example.   A few years ago, someone at the State of Utah Driver License Division spelled my last name wrong in transposing it from a hand-written application.  I did not notice the error until quite some time later.  My last name was misspelled on the plastic card that represents a "permanent" driving license in Utah.

When I returned to the DLD and reported the error, they accused me of misspelling my own last name.  They wanted me to give them money to compensate them for the trouble of correcting my mistake.  It was a trivial amount, so it didn't bother me, other than that it was obviously THEIR error.

A short time later, as I was waiting for the clerical correction, they happened to look up the online facsimile of the form I had originally submitted.  It clearly showed that I had spelled my own name correctly.

Nothing further was mentioned about tendering the fee.  But no apology was forthcoming either.

Just one example of the many unhappy incidents that stem from garbling my last name.

There is nothing terribly wrong or offensive about spelling errors.  Our written communication is complex and in some instances not very intuitive.  That does not give us license for poor spelling.  We should correct our mistakes as soon as they are recognized, and learn to do better.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Driving Test 2

Though I only drove my car for a few minutes over the past few weeks, it seems that I magically acquired much improved driving skills,  sufficient to pass the test with flying colors.  Now, apparently thanks to the beneficent tutelage of the DLD, I am such a wondrously improved driver.  Now I suddenly and inexplicably deserve to be granted the privilege of driving without my mommy to accompany me, after my initial execrable performance and abject failure.  But not without significant cost and compromise.

The DLD deigns to issue me a "license" - albeit with a multitude of arbitrary restrictions that make it well nigh to useless.  I still cannot legally drive to my doctor's office or hospital.  Nor can I even drive to the Springville Walmart without running afoul of the restrictions.  Driving to Salt Lake Valley to visit my children is out of the question.

After she notified me that I passed the test, I complained about all the unwarranted restrictions to the examiner, who seemed astonished that anyone would be so ungrateful about being presented with such a charitable gift.  So she dutifully summoned her supervisor to confront me with bureaucratic stonewalling, and berate me for my gauche.  The supervisor said something about "having a conversation", then proceeded to discount every word I said,  effectively granting me her  beneficent permission to shut up and go away.  She offered no reasonable justification for any of the arbitrarily imposed "restrictions".

I had to laugh when the woman bristled at my characterization of their segregating the group of "normal" drivers from the "impaired" to target for discrimination.   Her retort, "Do you realize what a SERIOUS charge you're making!?"  As if I was somehow offering insult to her virtue and integrity.   I am using exactly the same language used in the State of Utah laws which the DLD uses to codify and justify discrimination against handicapped drivers.

She claimed that the State of Utah DLD is the guardian of "safety" - even though none of the "restrictions" they were imposing had anything to do with any demonstration of "safety" issues.   Indeed, the drivers who are recognized by the Utah Department of Public Safety as the most accident-prone of all generally enjoy perfectly unrestricted driving privileges, right up to the moment when they murder somebody.  What a brilliant "SAFETY" program!

In this round, the insistence on head-swiveling continues.  The examiner KNOWS, in her heart-of-hearts, backup cameras are no substitute for turning your head around 180 degrees, even though this virtually eliminates the usefulness of a backup camera.  The NHTSA has mandatory required backup cameras in all new vehicles starting next year.  But the DLD still knows better.  The examiner says, "Don't you DARE look at the backup camera while backing."  Even though in the vehicle I drove for this test,  the view through the back window that the examiner insisted I should use is severely limited and unreliable at best, even NOT SAFE to rely on!

Need I add that this is a totally regressive mindset.  I daresay it is typical at the State of Utah DLD.  The Federal government mandates that all cars have backup cameras starting this year, but the State of Utah DLD still insists that we must never use them.

Not only does the DLD examiner insist on swivel heads, she maintained her pretence that she could not change the driving test requirements to omit parallel parking.  I demonstrated my parallel parking skills by the curb on the street next to the DLD office, and asserted that this is the only type of parallel parking I am ever likely to attempt.  Nonetheless, she still insisted that I try to park between the DLD cones.  I asserted numerous times that my physical handicap precludes any facility at such manuvering, but she continued to insist that it is a mandatory part of the driving test.  Even though other parts of the test are routinely omitted.  I made a token pass at parking between the cones, and she predictably construed my "failure" as a driving test violation, with an imposed penalty.

I could not care less about parallel parking.  It would be fine with me if the DLD imposed a restriction on my driving license that explicitly restricts me from attempting to park between two cones.  I am happy to stipulate that I cannot and will not ever be able to perform parallel parking, by the DLD definition.   I would not even object to any number of other restrictions that prevent me from legally attempting things I am not physically capable of doing.  But the insistence that I must perform the parking attempt on the driving test is obviously symptomatic of a greater problem at the DLD.

According to this, I am restricted to:
  • driving on roads with a speed limit of 40 MPH or less
  • daylight driving only
  • hand controls
  • spotter mirrors
Not one of these listed restrictions makes a particle of sense - in fact, they are the height of absurdity.  I implemented the hand controls myself.

None of the "restrictions" have to do with anything remotely related to "safety".  The examiner's supervisor at the DLD defended their arbitrary requirements, asserting that I raised no objection to them when they were originally imposed.  Well, excuse me, but I do not recall that  you were present at the time.  I most certainly DID object to the restrictions.  At the time, I had no reason to believe that the DLD practices routine discrimination against handicapped drivers.  Now that I have experienced it consistently, I recognize blatant discrimination for what it is.

My suspicion is that the examiner passed me this time because she believed my pickup truck was under video surveillance - which it was - and she no confidence that she could get away with fabricating such an unjustified and outrageous test score as previous, with other people witnessing.  I don't like video surveillance, but I could think of no other option to protect myself in this manifestly hostile environment.


Her primary concern was that there was a little bit of snow on the roads.  I have no such doubts about driving on snowy roads, and would venture that I have more cumulative experience driving in snow than the examiner has ever travelled on dry pavement.

One of the violations she checked off was "RS", indicating that she was reporting a "rolling stop".  Because of problems with automatic adjustment for light conditions, that portion of the video record of the incident is not conclusive, but the audio track clearly indicates that the vehicle made a complete stop for several seconds prior to accelerating for the right turn.  The engine noise is unmistakable.

It was funny to see that the examiner chose to instruct me to perform a U turn on a residential street - in my full sized pickup truck.   Most would have easily recognized that the truck does not have a small enough turning radius and cannot complete a U turn in such a narrow street.

I also had to laugh about the examiner's imposition of the "spotter mirrors" requirement, after she observed my frequent use of mirrors during the test.  In fact I have always made frequent use of mirrors.  This "spotter mirrors" requirement is just an annoyance more than anything.  She apparently noticed that my right hand mirror has a cheap cheesy convex mirror affixed.  Two of these little mirrors were on the truck when it was purchased used, some years previous.  They never bothered me, other than the barely significant useful mirror surface they waste.  But this is an additional symptom of imposing meaningless arbitrary restrictions.  The truck used to have another little phony mirror glued on to the drivers side REAL mirror, but it fell off somewhere, and I never bothered to replace it.  The little mirrors never made any significant difference to my SAFE driving.

The restriction to drive on roads of 40 MPH or less is fatuous  and punitive from the beginning.  I am certainly no better or worse at driving 60 than I am at driving 40.  Another baseless "safety" restriction.

I have no idea why anyone would have dreamed up the "daylight driving only" restriction.  Indeed, I have no recollection that anyone ever formally tested my night driving, or questioned me more than in passing about any difficulties I might have had with night driving. I would have answered that  I have never had any reason to suppose my nightime driving is any better or worse than any NORMAL driver.  And neither does the State of Utah DLD.  Just another inexplicable arbitrary and discriminatory restriction.

As already mentioned, the hand controls were implemented by ME, as an adaptive measure to accommodate my physical handicap.  None of the other restrictions can be realistically construed to relate to the hand control adaptation.  But the DLD just had to list this, as if it were THEIR idea.  Actually, I gave up all hope of driving with NORMAL pedal controls years ago.  I only recently discovered the hand controls that let me drive my car nearly as if I could function NORMALLY.

The "15 MILE RADIUS FROM HOME" restriction is another pointless and arbitrary restrictive measure that amounts to punitive.  If I had the will, I could legally drive in circles for thousands of miles.  This appears to be the intent of this silly restriction.  I have a number of destinations I could and would travel to frequently if it did not violate my "restrictions".  The compassionate and sensitive supervisor suggested I should just learn to rely on public transportation.  I could tell from her attitude that SHE never does, and that she would never suggest this to any NORMAL person.

The "spotter mirrors" requirement is just a ludicrous afterthought.  I bought a new set from Amazon to install in my pickup for $3.00.  I could not care less, other than the fact that it is an arbitrary and entirely capricious imposition.  I cannot imagine that the DLD would even THINK to make such a silly requirement for a NORMAL driver.  But for me, the IMPAIRED driver, it's just a great idea.  So why not make it a "restriction"?

As far as I know, I have never encountered one single person from the State of Utah DLD who has medical credentials, is board certified as a qualified medical practitioner, or who even is even reasonably well informed about medical handicaps.  If DLD employees have no particular expertise that qualifies them to make judgements about medical issues, they need to defer to the opinion of those who ARE qualified to make such deliberations.  I expected the DLD to actually LOOK at the recommendations my doctors make.  When I see clear evidence that they are not even CAPABLE of reading a medical report, I don't believe they ever did.  Instead, they just assume that medical handicaps must be a safety hazard.  As a result of this bigotry,  NORMAL drivers have not restrictions, while those labelled as medically IMPAIRED get much worse treatment than drunk drivers.

Note that the restricted temporary license states that it expires in six months.  Yet another arbitrary and capricious limitation that no NORMAL driver ever encounters.  Oh joy!  I get to repeat this senseless exercise, every six months.  To be sure, I will work on improving my video surveillance technology.

Thrilled at the prospect of enjoying such graceful accommodation at the State of Utah DLD!

Sunday, January 03, 2016

You're not permitted...


Hey, you're not permitted in there - it's restricted.  You'll be deactivated for sure.
Don't you call me a mindless philosopher, you overweight glop of grease!