Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Linton Hall's Unpaid Workers

I remember the many times we would march down to dinner, smell something delicious like pot roast, and be disappointed that we were having something else, such as a bologna sandwich. The smell, of course, came from the nuns' dining room.

I used to ask myself why, but lately I've asked myself how. How did these fine, upstanding women, these paragons of goodness and righteousness, these holy women who had taken a vow of poverty, afford to eat so well? The answer is, Linton Hall's unpaid workers.

Unpaid workers? The officers, of course. Imagine, for a moment, a boy of 13 being responsible for a dozen or so siblings, aged from 7 to 13, supervising them from the time they wake up until bedtime, making them get dressed, wash, make their beds, have breakfast, walk to school, then supervising them at lunchtime and after-school playtime, at dinner, study hour, and showers, with a big sister, age 20, not doing much supervising, except for shower time, when she's always there. Just how quickly do you think the social workers would intervene? (The question isn't would they intervene, but how quickly.)

And what if these kids didn't belong to just one mother (who had managed to give birth to a dozen or more children over the span of seven years, poor woman) but were in some type of day care, where the parents were actually paying for them to be taken care of?

I asked you to imagine this, but for former Lintonians it's not too hard to picture such a scenario, since it's quite similar to what went on at Linton Hall. As others have commented, the dorm prefects assigned to look after 50 or more boys in a dorm often took a hands-off attitude and let the officers run things. In the playground there was one prefect with over 200 boys, and they often spent time chatting with a few cadets. Compared to other schools I attended, the staff to student ratio was much lower at Linton Hall Military School. The same disparity exists between the summer camps I attended elsewhere, and Linton Hall.

Officers were on duty most of the waking hours; school hours are the major, and pretty much only, exception. An hour and a half from reveille to the beginning of school, and hour for lunch, and about five hours from the end of school until bedtime adds up to seven and a half hours. Weekends when we did not go home there were twelve-hour days, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.. On average, that's a forty nine and a half work week, folks.

Yes, I call it work. A babysitter, often a 13-year-old girl, gets paid for babysitting one or two, sometimes as many as three kids, supervising their dinner, homework, recreation, changing into pajamas and so on. One difference is in the sheer number of kids supervised. Another is in the number of hours worked per week, whcih may be five hours on each of two evenings per week for a babysitter, far less than almost fifty hours. And another difference is that the babysitter gets paid.

How did we get paid? I remember a couple of "Officer's Nights." After everyone's bedtime, we officers got to hang out for an hour or two in one of the unused dorms, play Ping Pong, and get a candy bar and a cup of soda. We also got the privilege of paying for the insignia on our shirt collar if we wanted to take it home after graduation. (I still don't know whether this was official policy or a nun's way to extract some money from me before I left. See my "Linton Hall and our Parents' Money" post for details.)

But my main gripe isn't about not getting paid. It's about having so much time taken away from me, time that I could have spent much better had I been home alone, unsupervised. As a "latchkey kid" before I went to Linton Hall, I did manage to do my homework, straighten my room, play with my friend next door, all between the time I got off the school bus and the time my parents came home.

Some will argue that this was a great opportunity to learn leadership and other skills. If you're talking about leading others on a field hike or camping trip, I would agree wholeheartedly. But when the number of hours approaches fifty hours a week, my point of view changes completely. People normally learn something while doing their jobs; but this is true all the way from the janitor to the company president. But they get paid for their work, and rightly so. To burden children with so many hours of work is totally wrong as I see it, and I doubt that I can be persuaded otherwise, especially since at Linton Hall, tuition and room and board charges were high enough to cover adequate staffing.

Copyright 2011 by Linton Hall Cadet.
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This blog is not affiliated with Linton Hall Military School and all opinions are those of the author. Comments are always welcome; please do not use your name or names of others.

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