“It is simply a matter of time. Quantity over quality,” he told his boss, the principal, as he resigned. He had never been so torn in his entire life.
How does one give up on a child?
He felt like crying.
The first step in solving any problem, he knew, was identifying it. The school district wanted high performance on standardized tests. The start of his resignation began when, as an outsider looking in, he surmised that the powers that be thought there was a direct correlation between the amount of paper on classroom walls and high performance on standardized tests. Finding himself in vehement disagreement, he wouldn’t support this doctrine. Remembering, or rather, not remembering there being much paper, certainly not much memorable paper on the walls of his childhood classrooms–save an attempt to show Pi’s irrational nature and a few motivational quotes–he couldn’t help but laugh at the sick joke.
In dealing with 13 year old’s who didn’t know their times table (and didn’t care to learn it), he recollected something he learned in college. He recalled learning that the notion of a juvenile, that is a 13-18 year old human, is man made. The theory goes something like, “until relatively recently puberty marked the coming-of-age of a human.” Puberty marked the entrance to manhood. It marked the entrance to womanhood. In at least Western civilization, however, we have something in between childhood and adulthood. We have the juvenile. For the deserving, this truly is a privilege. The deserving, those 13-18 year old’s who possess an ability to appreciate this extended grace period, should reap a benefit from past generations diligence. But the undeserving? What should happen to them? No matter whose fault it was, the undeserving should be placed where they’ll be placed in a few years anyhow–the adult world. “Don’t want to learn? Work. Find the simple joy of labor. Or, regret with a vengeance the stupid decision to not want to know how to think for yourself.” Either way, they’d be better for it.
Alas, frustratingly, even if he identified the problem as a misunderstanding of human biology, he only opened the door to another problem. What could have been done to teach 13 year old’s to value a readily available, free, and rigorous education? The answer? A home where education is valued. A better home school.
In his short tenure at the school he refused to call any of his student’s parents–for their protection. He wasn’t trying to protect the students, but the parents. He knew once the conversation began he wouldn’t be able to stop. “How could you raise your children with such carelessness? How could you not read to your children? How could you not ask about school and homework? How could you not demand the highest standards of behavior and performance? How could you reward their poor behavior with enabling feigned as ignorance?”
His own achievements convinced him of the simple truth that no expectation was too high. His own achievements began with the fear of earning a mother’s scorn. No way would she, or his father, have let his school advance him to 4th grade without doing his best in 3rd grade–and having the grades to show for it. His student’s parents though? Ha. They weren’t human beings. They were jokes.
How does one give up on a child? Most adults avoid situations which might result in needing to answer that question. He finally saw why. The answer was simultaneously unthinkable and the right thing to do. He cried.