An American Education

At seventeen

I confess: I was a teenage journalist. Well, a columnist, if briefly. And it is a confession: I have come to see media mavens with so jaundiced an eye that I rarely use the term "journalism" outside disowning quotation marks.

For what has yellowed me on that so-called profession, you can see the two "Media" chapters in my memoir, Promiscuous Affections, and a lecture I gave to some newly smug homo hacks in 1997: Gay "journalism" -- what for? Suffice it to say that I have called their trade "one of the most self aggrandizing, self absolving, and self 'professionalizing'" in the world.

For their effects on that world, I rank "journalists" right up there with arms dealers and ad execs -- generally less deluded about their role in creating what we know as "reality." (Mind you, I try to be nice to a writer friend about his media work: as an honest prostitute, he brings some honour to the trade.)

Still, I was, for a few months in 1967, a minor media hack, doing a regular column for The Public Spirit, Ayer's local (and still extant) weekly paper. The events leading me to it are covered in the first columns below. I don't recall how I convinced its editor to let a kid grace his pages, just that the paper's little office was at the foot of Pearl Street, conveniently: I could drop off copy on the way to my real job, as a janitor.

The columns here may not have been all of them (I vaguely recall one on school prayer, opposed of course, but can't find it). These ten I've kept for years, if rarely looking back at them. In writing An American Education I did -- surprised to find them not embarrassing.

Well, not too: transcribing them I was tempted to edit my former self (all those too generalizing instances of "the"; of pompous "which" where "that" would have done; the usual cleverness half too much) -- but, apart from a few bracketted and italic comments, I did not. That would have been (to put it maybe too grandly) historical revisionism, a thing I detest even more than "journalism." I did, however, apply the titles here; these ran originally with none.

So here, unrevised, I pop off at 17, learning soon enough the pitfalls of punditry. Each link below gets you to two pieces per page, side by side, most under 1,000 words. (Column widths may vary; blame your web browser program, not me.) A link at the end of each page leads to the next.

Rick Bébout, February 2001

The Generation Gap / Student Radicalism
Bridged in hope, if not for long / If of a modest sort

Votes for Kids! / Murder by the State
Well, at 18 / The death penalty: Relic of the Dark Ages

Perverted Patriotism / It's the Law
Before the Religious Right / So, is it ever right to break it?

Kids & God / Juvenile Justice
Not such an odd mix (outside church) / And God vs Darwin

Advice on Adulthood / Too Loose Thoughts
Hint: Avoid ancient bromides / The perils of punditry

Go to The Generation Gap / Student Radicalism

Go back to An American Education / Introduction / Local gentry / School
Or to: Promiscuous Affections: Introduction / Media
Or: Gay "journalism" -- what for?

This page:
February 2001 / Last revised: October 5, 2001
Rick Bébout © 2001 /