influx of transfers from public schools.rnNearly all were promptly placed one tornthree grade levels back, and many teachersrnsoon questioned the wisdom of havingrnaccepted so many at once. Although near-rnIv all were white and middle-to-upperrnclass, there was a decided difference inrntheir academic backgrounds and conduct.rnThe new transfers and their parentsrncontinually pushed for mixed, schoolsponsoredrndances for pre-teenagers andrnearlv teens. Most of us old-timers weren’trnparticularly interested, until we heard wernought to be from the newcomers. Thernpublic-school girls came to class in skirtsrnso tight they could barely walk—”hobblernskirts,” we called them. Their parents notrnonly permitted, but encouraged, unchapcronedrnparties, where games such asrnspin-the-bottle and dark rooms were consideredrn”cute.” The newcomers passedrnaround their red lipsticks in the girls’rnbathroom and taunted us less-sophisticatedrnold-timers.rnVVliile menstruation and brassieres hadrnnever exactiy been taboo topics, thev tookrnon an obsessive quality in 1959 that hadn’trnexisted at Maret before. The new stiidentsrndid not talk about sex in terms of love andrnromance, the way Maret girls had. Instead,rnthey referred to sex by the “f’ word,rnwhich to us connoted something entirelyrndifferent, and certainly did not induce passion,rnhideed, I remembered being punishedrnby a teacher for saying “shut up” to arnclassmate; the ” f and “s” words wouldrnhae been unthinkable.rnPeer pressure, off-color language, andrnsexual preoccupation, of course, were notrnnew to America’s public schools, but theyrnv-ere to Maret, and both our teachers andrnparents let us know they were not impressed.rnLike most Maret old-timers, I was simultaneouslyrnthrilled and baffled by thernnewcomers. We practically fawired overrnthem because thev were different, becausernwe liad seen the same faces for sornnian- years, and because we’d beenrntaught to —well, make “guests” feel atrnhome. At public schools, I later discovered,rnall new kids were fair game for ostracismrnand ridicule.rnPundits today wring their hands overrnthe rash of school violence, the shootingsrnin Littleton, Paducah, Springfield, andrnAtlanta. But I noticed long ago thernthread that runs through extreme demonstrationsrnof hate by seemingly normalrnchildren: peer rejection. Wlien didrnit start turning sadistic? In looking overrnthat old school yearbook, it suddcnK’ occurredrnto me that those pivotal years inrnthe 1950’s, when early dating was legitimizedrnand normalized through schoolsponsoredrndances for barely pubescentrnadolescents, wreaked more havoc on tenderrnegos than all the admonishmentsrndoled out by strict teachers and protectivernparents.rnToday, the popular term for ending arnyouthful relationship is “dumping.” Onernparty unceremoniously ignores the formerrnobject of his or her affections, withoutrnexplanation. At a time when childrenrnare still forming concepts aboutrncompassion, “dumping” is devastating,rnakin to the death or disappearance of arnfamily member. Few children of 10 torn15 are emotionally capable of handlingrnthat level of rejection. Pervasive angerrnand self-hate are among the more longtermrndestructive responses. Before thern1950’s, parents in Europe, Latin America,rnand the United States must havernsensed somehow that it wasn’t healthy forrnyoung children to spend long periods ofrntime together, left to their own devices.rnThe tendency toward cliques was discouraged,rnand children spent more timernwith their parents than with each other.rnAfter-school activities, when there werernany, were taken up with indiidual learningrnexperiences, not team sports—ballet,rnhorseback riding, music, or merely workingrniir the family store.rnParents of the 1950’s came of age in anrnera when adults actually enjoyed therncompany of young children, a time whenrnstores didn’t place signs in their windowsrnadmonishing parents to supervise theirrnoffspring or, worse, barring children altogether.rnMaitre d’s didn’t recoil in horrorrnat the sight of parents with youngsters inrntow, and people didn’t put away their betterrnknickknacks just because childrenrnwere accompanying their parents to dinner,rnhi my parents’ day, children werernmade to feel a part of adult life instead ofrnbeing shuttled off to their own activities.rnThis was both unconscious and deliberate.rnOur parents and teachers wanted usrnto be comfortable with civilized behavior,rnbut they also were guarding againstrnour tormenting one another.rnAt Maret, one teacher stood out fromrnthe others —Mile. Anne Marie Picard.rnMile. Picard seemed to us stern, intimidating,rnand unapproachable. She alwaysrnmeant business. We actually called herrnjust “Mam’sellc” —no other designationrnwas necessary. Everyone knew whomrnyou meant. I used to fix my attention onrnwhat I supposed to be a wart beside herrnnose as I was being lectured for my manifoldrnsins and wickedness. I have sincernlearned that it takes roughly 25 years tornturn a wart into a beauty mark.rnMy most vivid memory of Mam’sellernwas her standing in front of the class,rnscolding us in her thick, accented Elnglish,rnher profuse gray curls bobbing:rn”Someday you weel t’ank me for dees,”rnshe would reiterate, wagging a chastisingrnfinger. “You weel come back to deesrnschool when you are old and you weelrnsay, ‘Merci, mademoiselle, merci,’ just likernall dee ones before you.” It was her favoriternspeech.rnAll the kids knew what Mam’sellernstood for and what to expect from her, nornmatter what else we may have thoughtrnabout her at the time. Oddly, there was arncomfort in that—even while she was fishingrnthe crusts of our sandwich out of therngarbage can and handing them back tornus in the cafeteria, admonishing us not tornwaste food, and confiscating the pursesrnwe had gotten for Christmas, because wernwere “spending too much time showingrnoff.” Mam’selle stood for Standards. Sherndidn’t humor us or try to be our pal. Sherncouldn’t be conned, and there was no appealrnfrom her pronoimcements.rnAt Maret, there was no place for phonyrnpraise of the ego-boosting kind. It was onlyrnafter I started teaching in the latern1960’s that I heard patronizing commentsrnsuch as, “Prett}’ good for no practice.”rnIn Mam’selle’s view, you might becomern”pretty good” if you practiced . . .rnand, then again, you might not. Wlienrn}ou were not good at something, yourncontinued to practice. Then you wouldrnappreciate those who excelled. That wasrnhow we learned to discern a polished performancernfrom one that was merely technicallyrncorrect, how we came to tell therndifference between an exceptional piecernof music and less sophisticated pieces,rnhow we eventually recognized an authenticrnParisian, and how we distinguishedrnbehveen a Monet and a Renoir.rnToday, such cultural knowledge hasrnbeen abandoned. Youngsters scribblerngraffiti on the walls, and we tell themrnthey are wonderful artists.rnOur parents never had to wonder whatrnwas going on in our heads or at school.rnLike my mother, who held a full-timernjob, many parents avoided the school busrnand ferried their own children to andrnfrom school, even if it meant using publicrntransportation. Unlike our publicschoolrncounterparts, who began theirrndays virtually without supervision, jock-rnJANUARY 2001/49rnrnrn