My son, Jake, ran for School Captain this week. He didn’t win. He accepted the defeat graciously, with good humour and aplomb. ‘I knew I wouldn’t win, Mum,’ he said. ‘It was inevitable. You know who I was up against.’
That’s just it. I did know who he was up against – the demonic cyborg children of the members of the P and C (Australian version of the PTA.) The members of the P and C do occasionally produce wonderful, well-adjusted kids, it has to be said. Two of my best friends were active members of the P and C for many years and their kids are among a small number of kids I would be happy to call my own. However, the present P and C batch seem to have produced a series of uber-children who are self-obsessed, highly competitive, precocious, thoughtless, with little respect for others. The child who was elected as Vice Captain is a known bully. On the day of the election several kids told me the now Vice Captain was seen punching a third grader (he is in fifth grade) in the boys toilets. The only child who intervened was my son. He was given detention for lying about the incident.
Jake gave a speech about stopping bullying and helping kids who have trouble fitting in, along with his usual jokes about not picking your nose or farting in class. Over twenty people rang me that evening to say what a big impression he had made on their kids. Many parents admitted their child was being bullied and Jake’s speech had given them hope. There was a noticeable buzz surrounding him. For a fleeting moment I thought he might burst out from his position as extreme underdog and win the race.
But I should have known better than to underestimate the power of the P and C fembots. On voting day they handed out stickers, chocolate and schmoozed the teachers. Naive as I am, I did nothing, believing Jake’s speech, sense of humour and personality would be enough to get him through.
After Jake’s defeat I received almost forty calls from genuinely upset parents and kids who had been hoping for a shift in the balance of power. I also received a very interesting call from a teacher I know personally (the school doesn’t know we worked together years ago) who told me the P and C and the teaching staff weren’t happy at Jake’s intimation that bullying occurred in the school and that some of the votes may have been disregarded because of it. Seems to me that pretending bullying doesn’t exist is one sure way to ensure it continues to flourish. And vote-fixing in a primary school election? Some people need to get a life!
So Jake sits tonight watching ‘ The Simpsons’, feeling slightly disappointed but heartened by the amount of support he has received. He has handled it well and I am glad – for he has much more disappointment to face in life in the years ahead. As my friend, Mary (and one of Jake’s most ardent supporters) says :’ Having a known bully in a school leadership position sends out the wrong message. Jake would have changed things for the better. He shouldn’t have lost just because his Mum isn’t a member of the P and C. It’s not Jake’s loss, it’s the school’s loss.’
Amen to that!