“No mistakes!” the boy beamed.
Scrunching up his forehead and sharpening his eyes, the man replied, “This one is wrong. And this one.” Then he turned the page over. “This is wrong. And this one isn’t exactly wrong, but it isn’t worded correctly enough to be right.”
“Why did you say, ‘no mistakes’?”
“Because the teacher put a star right there.”
“Well, there are mistakes.”
“Well, the teacher doesn’t grade it. She just looks to see that we did it.”
I ask you, reader, do you know what it feels like to have Ignorance violently and maliciously knock you unconscious at breakfast?
“Well,” he began again, “Why did you tell me that there were no mistakes if you didn’t know?”
“Okay. How about, ‘What does mistake mean?'”
“Like when you accidentally make a mistake.”
“Well, you can’t use the word in the defin-”
“Right. But it’s not really limited to ‘accidents’.” A pause. “So why did you say, ‘no mistakes?'”
“I was guessing?”
“Never mind. How about, ‘If the teacher says, “No mistakes,” when they haven’t looked at the work, then what is that called?'”
A searching pause. This, reader, was then followed by a nine year old’s terrifying, confusing, distasteful, and yet somehow innocent identification of everything wrong with public schools.
(In case you missed it, the beginning of my tale found a child–Hero? Villain? We do not know–in Fantasy Land, and he felt like a million bucks. Then the end of my tale landed our hero in the real world, where A- was repulsed by the thought of moral responsibility–not just moral responsibility but mere moral reality–and longed for that Fantasy Land of yester-minute filled with lies and no responsibility.)