brazenness is courage rather than conceit?rnWho still believes that a bottomlessrnneed for approval leads to anything but arnbottomless potential for cravenness?rnWhat kind of man publicly humiliatesrnhis child?rnTo have identified with such a personrnwould unnerve anyone. But the problemrnfor the male Smarties isn’t that they identifiedrnwith a flawed President, or evenrnwith a lousy excuse for a human being.rnTheir problem is that they identified withrna lousy excuse for a man. The vanit}’-rnbased elitism and self-absorption theyrnshared with Bill Clinton have yielded to arnsense of mortification (which is counteredrnat the moment with denial) at theirrnslow discovery that Clinton is, first and always,rnthe ver)’ last thing any self-respectingrnmale wants to be: an empty vessel, arnfigure without honor. Character didn’trnmatter if a man could do the job, remember?rnIt turns out that character isrnthe man and the man is the job.rnA year ago, I thought I knew what Irnwanted. I wanted Bill Clinton to resign.rnFailing that, I wanted him removed fromrnoffice. But he didn’t, and he wasn’t, andrnthere is a reason for that: We are not finishedrnwith him yet; the test isn’t over. Myrnpersonal goal now is to find peace withrnthe knowledge that the awfulness of arnPresident whose televised image makesrnme want to sail a shoe at the TV is thernver’ awfulness that is creating a most welcomernbacklash toward human wholesomeness.rn(Obvious source of insightrnand resolution: Everything happens for arnreason.)rnLJnlike, say, William Bennett, I do notrnbelieve Americans are failing a moralrnchallenge. I think we are processing thernver)’ unfamiliar experience of being ledrnby a man with virtually no redeemingrnqualities. That processing is no smallrndeal because the experience is no smallrnevent—and the whole business will justrntake as long as it takes.rnWe will know we are reaching thernblessed end, however, when some Smar-rnHe—Jonathan Alter, maybe—stops writingrnflea-ridden articles about how impeachmentrnwas actually a politicalrnpositive for Bill Clinton (“without Lewinsky,rnthe president would have felt no urgernto overhaul Social Security. . . . Thanks,rngirl!”) and gets a grip on his own urge tornoverhaul reality. I am waiting for therncrest of the arc to get active with thernhitching up of trousers and the clankingrnof cajones and the deep collective rumblingrnthat real men can feel shame andrnthey don’t make excuses for sissies whorncan’t.rnIt could happen —it could. As BillrnClinton’s presidency has proved, anythingrnis possible. Well, anything with thernexception of a change in Jonathan Alter.rnI think he’s just too far gone. Some friendrnneeds to take him aside and repeat, “Itrnwas a dog, Jonathan, a cfog—d-o-g.”rnJanet Scott Barlow writes from Cincinnati,rnOhio. Her website, “Out Here:rnCommentarv From Middle America onrnPolitics and Culture,” can be accessed thern”Unteachable”rnby Tim RobertsrnOn the last day of the school year, Irnsat at my desk. My students hadrnnot yet arrived, and I was consideringrnmaking a decision that would affect thernrest of my life.rnThe machinery that precipitated myrndilemma had been set in motion a yearrnearlier. Having recently earned a B.A. asrnan evening student, I was about to retirernfrom the New York City Police Department,rnwhere I had been employed for thernpast 20 years as a member of the uniformedrnforce. I planned to attend lawschoolrnfull-time, and subsec[uently pursuerna career in law. But unexpected financialrnexigencies forced a change inrnplans. I needed a job.rnThe New York Cit}’ Board of Education,rnfacing a teacher shortage, had announcedrnthat it would temporarily waiverneducation course requirements —to bernfulfilled at a later time—for candidatesrnwho met all other eligibility criteria. I decidedrnthat, after I had fulfilled those requirements,rnI would enroll in law schoolrnas an evening student. I took the examinationrnfor a license to teach social studiesrnin the secondary schools, and passed.rnWhen I appeared at Board of Educationrnheadquarters for a teaching assignment,rnI was directed to the Bureau for thernSocially Maladjusted and EmotionallvrnDisturbed (BSMED). I would be teachingrnbo’s who, when frustrated, often reactrnviolently. For many of them, therncourts had issued PINS (Persons in Needrnof Supervision) petitions, attesting to therninabilit)’ of parents, often single, to controlrntheir children. The BSMED dayrnschools were all that stood between themrnand residential correctional institutionsrnlocated in upstate New York. I was toldrnthat teachers’ safety was ensured, for althoughrnmany of the students belonged tornstreet gangs and carried weapons, allrnwere searched upon entering schoolrngroimds. Their common practice was tornstash their weapons en route to schoolrnand to recover them after school was out.rnAs a police officer, I had interactedrnwith many such boys and had been ablernto establish excellent rapport with this socalledrn”incorrigible” population. I acceptedrnthe appoinbnent.rnPreparing for my new career, and withoutrnthe benefit of education courses, I reliedrnupon A.S. Neill’s Summerhill, whichrnadvocated a humanistic approach tornteaching atypical children. I read thatrnwork at least a dozen times and memorizedrnevery innovative approach suggested.rnWhen I arrived for orientation at myrnassigned school, the principal informedrnme that I was to teach a class of 12 seventh-rngrade youths. All had been heldrnback several times and thus were olderrnthan their counterparts in neighborhoodrnschools. He told me that the goals of thernprogram were to reverse socially unacceptablernbehavior, improve students’rnreading and math scores, and return studentsrnto regular school settings. Wlien Irninquired what was meant by “emotionallyrndisturbed,” he responded that I wasrnsimply to report behavior of “an extremelyrnbizarre nature” so that the Bureau ofrnChild Guidance, the clinical arm of thernprogram, could dispatch a psychiatrist,rnpsychologist, or psychiatric social workerrnto evaluate the youngster in question.rnWhen I met my pupils for the firstrntime, I was completely unprepared forrntheir size. Some of them stood almost sixrnfeet tall and looked like young adults. Irncould see, however, expressions of abjectrnfear on their faces. Why, I wondered,rnshould they be afraid oime? These were,rnafter all, stieetwise kids who didn’t flinchrnreadily. I determined to establish a climaternin my classroom that was devoid ofrnfear and stress and conducive to learning.rnThe first two weeks of teaching provedrnto be the most difficult work of my entirernlife. Whenever I turned my back, I receivedrna barrage of chalk, erasers, and paperrnclips, accompanied by shouts of gleernSEPTEMBER 1999/45rnrnrn