The Brain Eaters Invade Massachusetts Middle School

The best of the schlock sci-fi thrillers from the 1950s were The Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Blob. Further down the marquee was another cult favorite, The Brain Eaters, appearing at premier theaters in 1958.  Following a well-grooved genre, the brain eaters were alien parasites attaching themselves to unsuspecting victims' spines.

More than 50 years later, the brain eaters have re-appeared at a Middle School in Ipswich, Massachusetts, specifically targeting its principal, David Fabrizio. How else to explain his cancellation of "Honors Night," replacing it with an "All-Inclusive Assembly," as reported in local press accounts and picked up nationally?

Perhaps the Ipswich Water Department conducted hydrant flushing on Fabrizio's street this past week, rinsing away his common sense along with iron and copper deposits. Or the Mass DEP water quality tests came back with alarming levels of mercury -- the most likely agent for his mad-hatter hysteria.

Whatever the source of principal Fabrizio's capitulation to the self-esteem and equal outcomes lobby, Ipswich will now join the news clippings blotter for late night comedians. 

According to the Ipswich Chronicle, a local rag that first revealed Fabrizio's surrender, "We had a situation where our best students were being honored exclusively away from the rest of the school. The problem was, those who needed that motivation weren't there", said Fabrizio.

For Fabrizio and his brethren, who would rather dabble in pop psychology than teach subject matter to unmotivated juvenile inmates in government schools, this isn't about recognition for achievement. Rather it's about misusing high achievers to promote collective therapy for everybody else.

Fabrizio's quarrel with a culture of achievement isn't breaking any new ground. He's merely imitating the soft-headed examples of high school principals unable to console the crestfallen runners-up to the valedictorians on graduation day, opting for a group hug instead.  Whoops --  hugging is banned too.

No doubt, many Ipswich parents appalled at politically correct nonsense visiting their own neighborhood, now wonder who or what inspired principal Fabrizio? Yet his sin, of the less grievous variety, falls short of a South London elementary school that banned  friendships, "to save the child from the pain of splitting up", as reported by the UK Sun a year ago.

Meanwhile, last November, the French president Francois Hollande, still feeling bruised for having lost Catherine to Henry and the Brits after Agincourt, proposed banning homework because homework is unfair to kids whose parents can't be bothered to make sure homework assignments are done.

Closer to home, a Maryland elementary school in St Marys County has recently banned cupcakes and invitations to birthday parties  "because students who aren't invited could have their feelings hurt."

And outside Boston at the Salemwood Elementary School in Malden, valentines have been judged contraband, as Principal Carol Keenan said, "I don't want some students feeling left out."

Poor darlings. But not in Ipswich, now.

Such twaddle, normally the stuff from The Onion, leads to serious erosion of any meaningful recognition based on merit.  And Fabrizio's unwillingness to make distinctions in a forum where undiluted achievement is celebrated, suggests he is unwilling to make distinctions that matter anywhere else in his school.

Parents need to ask Fabrizio and his ilk serious questions --to wit, what are your standards of scholarship? Indeed do you have any?  What are your hiring criteria for middle school teachers? Do you have any? What are your evaluation benchmarks for teacher performance?  Do you have any? Can anyone fail in your school? How do you define equal opportunity?  Must all outcomes be identical?

Apart from Ipswich middle school parents, who should be alarmed to find out their principal has neither standards for scholarship nor is able to choose what is exceptional from what is pedestrian, our sympathies should align with beleaguered high school teachers whose classrooms will soon be infested by poor wretches from Fabrizio's day care center who have been bestowed with honors for simply showing up.

I recall a few years ago being impressed with the number of Ipswich sixth graders listed in the Honor Roll, as published by the Chronicle. Of course there were Very High Honors, High Honors, Honors, Honorable Mention, and Commendable.  The names-I counted 62-- absorbed an entire page. But to my surprise, upon further review, there were 64 kids in the entire class. What happened to those two unlucky waifs? In art class did they color the frog's eyes red instead of brown or blue?  Did they try to drop a dead mouse down the blouse of a student-teacher?  How could two out of sixty four miss the cut, even at Commendable -- just one level above serial truancy?

Poor darlings. But not in Ipswich, now

Well to Ipswich middle school principal David Fabrizio and all other champions of what President George W Bush dubbed the "soft bigotry of low expectations"-- here's a report card from one taxpayer willing to make a distinction: You flunked. Poor darling.

Geoffrey P Hunt, a retired electrical industry executive and long time contributor to AT, has lived for 31 years in Ipswich.