There was no greater deterrent against doing the wrong thing in the 1960s and ’70s (and maybe even before and after my school years) than the fear that all of one’s transgressions and rule-breaking might go down on one’s permanent record.
You’d best not cut a class, for if you get caught, it will go down on your permanent record!
If the hem of your skirt was too far above your kneecap, that would likely go down on your permanent record too.
Don’t smoke on campus, or shoplift, or put soap in the outdoor fountain, or make fun of a teacher, because these infractions can follow you for the rest of your life!
In the case of shoplifting, that might be true – that, after all, is against the law. It’s called “theft.”
The threat was, in my recollection, mostly school-related. And it did seem that our report card grades followed us from one year to the next. Colleges expect high school transcripts, so there’s that.
But somehow it seemed to spill over into life in general. I wonder if that’s still the case.
I know for a fact that one’s driving record is kept on record for a long time and the insurance company knows about it! They must have a network of tracking systems to know that one driver on the family policy has a lead foot.
(It’s not me. I have gotten only one speeding ticket in my life and that was in 1985, when I arrived in Atlanta an hour before my parents, who had pulled out of the driveway at the same time I did.)
What about medical records? Recently I found an old folder from a doctor visit when I was a new patient in 2012. On their paper form, of which I have a copy, I had answered such questions as what prescriptions and vitamins I was taking, how long since my last mammogram and what health problems my siblings had.
But where are those records now? That practice closed several years ago and the doctor retired! What happened to my records? Obviously, they are not permanent.
The idea of a “permanent record” has been around since my older brother was in high school. I’m fairly certain I first heard about this enigmatic behavior modification tool from him. It scared me to the point that I became Miss Goody Two Shoes.
Seriously. I was mortified when, in 5th grade, I was made to leave the music room because my teacher thought I was still laughing after she told Betsy Funderburk and and me to stop. I did stop! I was only smiling at that point.
Is that infraction still on my permanent record?
When I asked my husband what he had heard about “your permanent record,” he exclaimed, “That’s the black marks – you don’t want black marks against you on your permanent record!”
Where is it kept? Is it in a beige file cabinet in the Pentagon? Or in the musty basement of a nondescript building somewhere in Kansas?
Perhaps on the internet?
That thought raises some fodder for healthy debate: How much of what we have shared with the worldwide web of humanity still lingers on the internet? How far does it go back? Have you googled yourself lately?
I might have to do some searching. And if I find any incriminating evidence that I helped put soap in the high school fountain, I will deny it – unless there are photos of the cool bubbles we made.