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After Work: The Permanent Record

…“The scores will go on your permanent record,” the fourth grade teacher said ominously as she peered over her half glasses. Her grey hair, usually curly, seemed even more ready to spring from her head as she passed out the pulp paper booklets. The fourth grade standardized test.

Permanent record. These were fear-inducing words to nine and recent ten-year-olds…

Dona Gibbs has been dogged through life by the fear of this or that going on her permanent record. And now there’s the Internet which makes her permanent record, which contains intriguing information, available for the whole world to see.

“The scores will go on your permanent record,” the fourth grade teacher said ominously as she peered over her half glasses. Her grey hair, usually curly, seemed even more ready to spring from her head as she passed out the pulp paper booklets. The fourth grade standardized test.

We shifted uneasily in our seats. The desks were always a little sticky, tops and bottoms. They were given a new coat of varnish each summer.

Up and down the rows she went. And then stop watch in hand, she told us to pick up our Number 2 pencils and begin.

Permanent record. These were fear-inducing words to nine and recent ten-year-olds.

What did it really mean? Eight years from now, would college be a closed door. Fifteen years down the road, would a hoped for job be denied? Or, more in line with the thinking of a ten-year-old girl, would Prince Charming suddenly exclaim,”Oh, yes, the slipper fits perfectly, but the mice have told me you didn’t do well in long division, We have your permanent record.”

And all would be lost.

So all through grammar school and high school, we were warned, “It will go on your permanent record.”

Caught with a cigarette. It’ll go on your permanent record. A weekend party where beer was sneaked in. It’ll go on your permanent record. A scuffle in the hallway. That, for sure, would go on your permanent record.

And your permanent record would follow you to college so we imagined. Where professors could add to it, “Often fuzzy thinking.” Deans could chuckle and add, “Late for curfew. Twice.”

Of course, if any of this were recorded, it wouldn’t mean two beans in the outside world, if the outside world were privy to all this threatened permanent record stuff.

I suspect there are at least two, maybe three, generations of high schoolers in the United States who were constantly being told that such and such would go on their permanent records.

As a threat it worked perhaps to keep us striving. For better scores. Better behavior. And impeccable permanent records.

However, not the most far-sighted high school principal could have dreamed up the most permanent of all permanent records: the Internet. Seemingly all seeing. All knowing.

If you haven’t already done so: Google yourself. Chances are, you’ll find something. A wedding you attended. An organization you joined. A speech you made. A house you sold. Your permanent record for all to see.

The fear of this or that going on my permanent record kept me on the straight and narrow. Maybe too straight and too narrow. Not that I ever had it in me to be a hell-raiser. I grew up in the Bible Belt and had very vigilant parent guidance. To call me Goody Two-Shoes would not be inappropriate, even to my face.

Goggle me and you’ll find the articles I’ve written and then deep, deep in the depths you’ll ferret out that I’ve raised daffodils and entered flower shows. Unfortunately, I only placed third in my last attempt. And it’s on my permanent record.


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