Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Truantzoic Era©

I am two-thirds through a great book, called A Jest of God, written by Canadian literary icon, Margaret Laurence.
Early on, there is this 7-year old kid named James Doherty, and it has become evident to Principal Willard Siddley that young James has been cutting class.
Willard confronts Rachel Cameron, the protagonist of the novel [James’s Grade One schoolteacher] and advises her to contact James’s mother, “before we notify the truant officer.”
When I first read it, I just went merrily on, flipping the pages.
But something sort of brought me back.
Notify the truant officer?
It just seemed so weird to me.
A truant officer.
What is this, even?
I mean, I know what it is supposed to mean and all…. but like, is there really such an occupation in this world? Is there really such a thing?
What does this person do?
Hunt kids with a big huge butterfly net? Stake them out at the local pinball arcade? Handcuff them down at the fishing hole? Throw them all into the paddy wagon? And off to the hoosegow?
It all seems so…. so Norman Rockwell-ish to me.
A truant officer.

I’m sorry, but I refuse to believe that it exists!
The Truant Officer is one of those urban myths.
How can this be someone’s JOB?
Hunting kids that skip school.

I keep in mind that this novel was written in 1966.
Perhaps this was an AGE or ERA….. like we have The Mesozoic Era and The Paleozoic Era and whatnot, followed by The Truantzoic Era© ?
To be superseded by our current Check-Your-Guns-At-The-Door Era?
But really. One way or the other, aren’t these guys pretty much extinct now?
Wouldn't they need serious flak-jackets? And tazers?
Do truant officers, or even anything remotely like them, still exist in our current world?


Anonymous said...

Of course we do, we're called "Mothers". The school notifies us and we promptly begin torturing the guilty by removing all electronic devices from their persons and their rooms. It's hell on them, trust me.

Beth said...

I don't think truant officers exist any more but someone keeps track of school attendance. I know - I used to get the calls.

Great book! And a great movie with the title Rachel, Rachel was made from it (which is a rare occurrence). Directed by Paul Newman (be still my heart) and starring Joanne Woodward (his wife - curses.)

Melanie said...

I don't know if it's a widespread career these days but I know there's one in my town. He comes into the library to drag boys off the internet computers and back to school...