Friday, September 30, 2005

Books Shmooks

Stop me if you've heard this one:

A new student enters your class, complete with schedule change and that mumbling greeting and nervous expression of someone dreading change like the guillotine. It's always terrible timing because it's 6th period with 15 minutes left in the class. If you stop and talk to the student for too long, the class packs up and lines up at the door. To top it off, the class just happens to be 3/4 of the way through a novel--just to add some spice. Hey, that's okay because you're a professional and you can busy this new bundle of malleable intellect with some "supplemental material" in their textbook.

Everything is fine until you have this conversation:

HT: Okay, this is what we'll do. Open your textbook to page 456.

Student: I don't have a textbook.

HT: Okay. Here's the hall pass. Go to your locker and get your textbook.

Student: It's not in my locker.

HT: Okay. Do I get to guess where it is?

Student: I never got one.

HT: Do you have any textbooks?

Student: Nope.

HT: How have you been doing things in class all day long?

Student: This is my first class.

HT: It's sixth period. You've missed all day? Where have you been?

Student: In the office.

HT: What were you doing?

Student: Sitting.

HT: Do you have a locker?

Student: Yes.

HT: They assigned you a locker?

Student: Yeah.

HT: And you have a lock?

Student: Yes.

HT: But nothing to put in the locker to lock up?

Student: No.

HT: And you are sure you were down at the office all day and not some broom closet?

Student: Yup.

HT: Do they know you don't have books?

Student: Who? The brooms?

HT: No. The office.

Student: [shrugs]

HT: [heavy sigh with eyes closed] Okay, have a seat over there and look vacuously at the ceiling, please.

I really don't get it. Why would they keep the kid in the office all day and not issue books? They did everything else. That's like selling a car without a fuel tank. He has a locker, a parking spot, the lunch menu, a list of extra-curricular activities, they checked him for scoliosis, tuberculosis, and head lice, but books didn't make the cut.

According to the Transcendentalists, learning only needs a mind to give and a mind to receive in order to occur. No books necessary. Maybe that's the new philosophy in the front office. Maybe they're all closet Transcendentalists. Maybe they all secretly drive their SUVs to little shacks down by Walden Pond every afternoon and watch ants duke it out for supremacy of a wood pile or sit and talk to their bean patch.

But I doubt it.

Instead I imagine everyone up in the front office standing in the circle, puffing on cigars, swallowing Cognac, while telling stories of how they stuck it to the teachers today.

"Yeah. I mean, I could've issued the kid books, but c'mon. It's so much more fun this way."


Maybe it's not that bad.

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