“Decay of the American Classroom” by Robert Maxwell


'50s kids were purer
The '60s wrecked their parents, and by extension, them
In 1959 Mrs. Kathrin Abernathy told three kids to spit out their gum
Next September she tanned six hides and suspended half her class
Lateness
Spitballs
Cussing
Tantrums
Laughter
Yakking
And a paper airplane to her left eye
She thought it was a passing phase
A short-lived trend
But thirty years later her hair was white
And she was still a decade from retirement
The '90s brought the offspring of the original troublemakers
Who built on the misdeeds of their parents
"You can't strap them"
The new principal, half her age, said with a smile
"It's against policy"
So for each infraction the troublemakers were given hour-long breaks instead
Without the privilege of make-up work
In June of 1994 Mrs. Abernathy left her pupils without explanation
And started slowly towards the principal's office
She collapsed halfway there
Three kids passed her but said nothing
Finally a janitor nearly hit her with his mop
When the authorities arrived she'd been dead for fifteen minutes
"It was her heart" one paramedic said
Plucking the crumpled resignation notice from her fingers