Once upon a time there lived a boy named Roger who couldn’t wait to get to school. From the time he was three years old he begged his parents relentlessly to be able to enter the first grade, believing that kindergarten would be a complete waste of time. He had taught himself to read, using the newspapers, Sesame Street, and books given to him as birthday gifts. By the time he was old enough to enter school Roger was tested and shown to be reading at the fifth grade level.
That was great.
Except that it didn’t settle well with his teachers, whose routines depended upon a more progressive system of learning to read. Roger was classified in first grade as a “show off” and the tone was set for his educational journey. Each year the reports from previous teachers followed him, and he was scorned by his new teachers who “came prepared” for this obnoxious, precocious kid who just wanted to prove that he was better than all the other kids in the class.
The truth was that Roger didn’t really think about how he compared to other students. He just wanted to achieve. There was something exciting about learning, and whenever Roger recognized that he had learned something new there was a “rush” that filled him. The accumulation of knowledge was more than he had ever dreamed it would be.
But the system was flawed. His opponents, in this case the teachers, became so enraged at his progress that they schemed to trip him up. They were constantly placing before him the kinds of barriers that made it nearly impossible for him to move forward. They refused him a library card, pretended not to have enough books for him to have one, and even failed to inform him of forth-coming tests so that he could prepare. When he excelled in spite of them they found ways to identify his work as deficient. When he actually slipped and failed at something they broadcast it widely and ridiculed him. Their stated intent was to be sure that he didn’t pass, and finally, that he would fail to graduate.
Roger and his family were distressed. They tried everything they could to overcome the barriers in his way. Complaint to the administration fell on deaf ears. A letter to the editor was ridiculed and Roger was referred to as a “cry baby” because his work was deemed unacceptable.
But Roger persisted. When the time for graduation arrived and the valedictorian was to be announced the school passed a rule that there would be no valedictorian. A new method of a more democratic way of rewarding success meant that no one would be singled out to be the “top student.” Roger knew that he had the best grades and that he had never done anything to bring dishonor upon himself, his family or the school. But the administration persisted, and on the day of graduation when Roger reached out to receive his diploma, the principal whispered to him, “You really don’t deserve this, you know.” Roger knew better, so the intended slam was not successful.
As an adult now, Roger looks back upon his experience in school and recognizes that there was an overt plan to “cripple” him in his efforts, not because they were bad efforts, but because his energy, wisdom and enthusiasm made others, including the teachers, look bad. ” Maybe I should have played their game and stumbled along like everyone else,” he thought to himself.
* I fully recognize that “crippled” has become a word which is frowned upon. It is a perjorative and denotes imperfection. However, for the purposes of this posting, it seemed like the best word to use.
Cartoon Credit: nabadip