Get this: as I write these words, my permanent record is sitting on the desk beside me.
I found it when I cleaned out my files a couple of weeks ago. A friend (who is now deceased and thus cannot be prosecuted for turning over this precious document) worked at Western Reserve schools and gave it to me. I don’t know if there is also some digital or microfiche copy of it. But I have the actual hard copy. Cool, huh? My permanent record. Everything I ever did in school that the office thought should be written down.
And it is so interesting.
At the top of page one in the space for “Entry Date” is typed Sept. 8, 1953. The day I entered first grade.
All my grades are on my permanent record, of course. Every mark from first grade through high school. And I was surprised by some of them. For instance, in sixth grade Mrs. Stevenson gave me an A-minus in music. How could that be? To this day I cannot play a musical instrument, read music or sing without embarrassment.
And that B in seventh grade shop was a gift. My tooled leather comb holder and stained wood broom hanger were C-level at best. On the other hand, I remember being better than C-plus in geometry and worse than B in chemistry, but those are the grades entered right there on my permanent record.
For the first eight grades, I also have an autograph of sorts from the blessed teacher who entered each year’s summary: Pat Stoll, Ethel Elmes, Clarissa Bauer, Anna Cooley, Helen Brucker, Francis Stevenson, Patricia Beck and Martha Finley.
Like all my classmates, I took oodles of standardized tests, all of which are summarized in, yes, my permanent record.
Many of those tests claimed to compute an intelligence quotient (IQ). And it was interesting to see that my IQ allegedly increased by 16 points between first grade and eleventh grade. Hmmm…with an IQ growing at that rate, by now I must be, like, very, very--oh shoot, there’s a word for it--it’ll come to me…
Of course, there are results from the dreaded Iowa Tests Of Basic Skills (which show that I, ahem, absolutely killed the vocabulary and punctuation sections in April of 1961, eighth grade).
For many of the standardized tests, we students entered the data ourselves onto graphs or bar charts, plotting the points and either connecting them using our little rulers or shading the bars with our No. 2 pencils.
Two of those bar charts were quite revealing to me. One showing results in grade 8 and one in grade 10. They are both from the Kuder Preference Record, Vocational. They are what are sometimes called aptitude tests. And the scores are almost identical, suggesting that my preferences—aptitudes?—were consistent.
And they got some things right. My musical aptitude, for instance, was considered to be very low. (Really, Mrs. Stevenson, A-minus? Ha.)
But standing tall above all the other bars on the Kuder Preference Record chart was “Clerical.” The accompanying “Interest Profile” said “Clerical interest means you like office work that requires precision and accuracy. Jobs such as bookkeeper, accountant, file clerk, statistician and traffic manager fall into this category.”
I’m not saying the Kuder folks don’t know what they are talking about. But if they think I would have been a great accountant or bookkeeper they should see the mess I lay out—at the very last minute, I might add—when I do my taxes in April.
As for the other career suggested by Kuder, I think a guy with aptitude as a professional file clerk would have cleaned out his own files more often than just once this century.
At least when I finally did it I came up with the fascinating gem that the schools call my permanent record.
Jim Busek is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via e-mail at jimbusek@ hotmail.com.