A FAILING GRADE (PART TWO)

[Editorial Note: Educating children and adults, as well, forms the foundation for the future of a nation. The behavior of a certain portion of Americans ostentatiously reflects an increasing ignorance (e.g., little understanding of the U.S. Constitution or the laws of science that govern the world in which we operate), arrogance (i.e., fiercely held, non-scientific ideologies bereft of any possibility of correction), and egocentrism (e.g., the incessant chanting by some elderly, “Don’t touch my Medicare!”).

Given the current charade of political posturing by politicians in Washington over relatively trifling amounts, the darkening context of a declining culture casts an ominous shadow into the American future. Ultimately, education offers the brightest promise for a brighter future; hence, this posting (Parts One and Two) will remain in place during the current, fiscal crisis and its immediate aftermath.]

Continued from Part One . . .

Albie’s mother sighed. She pictured herself a female version of the legendary King of Corinth, Sisyphus, condemned in Hades to roll a boulder up a hill only to have it roll down as it neared the top . . . again and again and again unendingly. Inhaling deeply, she spoke sympathetically while her son looked bored.

“You know, Albie, you’re not always going to be eleven. Given your current educational context and your current educational behavior, the long-term consequences don’t bode well. Remember, in the final analysis, it’s all about context and consequences.”

“Like would you speak English, so I can understand it?” Albie groaned.

“Your inability to understand what I’m saying and your current behavior while we talk exemplify what I mean. Understand?”

“No . . . and I don’t want to!” he yelled at her.

Evelyn rose from her seat and approached her son. She slapped his face. “Understand that?”

When Albie began to rise from his seat, his mother pushed him back into it. “You’ll stay put until I say otherwise. Understand that, too?”

“Yeah,” Albie squeaked.

“You mean, ‘Yes, Ma’am’ . . . don’t you?”

Sullen silence then tears. “Yes, Ma’am.”

Evelyn returned to her seat. “Remember, Son, behavior has its consequences . . . good and bad . . . at home, at school, everywhere (www.inescapableconsequences.com). Okay, let’s try to speak rationally and courteously to one another. I deserve your respect as your mother. You deserve my respect as my son . . . nevertheless, remember the Ten Commandments say, ‘Honor thy father and thy mother’ . . . not ‘Honor thy children.’”

Albie’s lips remained silent, but his thoughts screamed, “Wait till I tell the teacher that she hit me. She’ll get hers. They’ll arrest her, I’ll bet.”

His mother continued, “Currently, you’re being rewarded for less than adequate achievement. You exhibit what behavioral scientists would call ‘a behavioral deficit in education’. By your still making the honor-roll, the school bestows upon you positive reinforcement, despite your obvious deficit. Understand?”

“No.”

“Your school is rewarding you for remaining an ignorant child and becoming an insolent brat. Understand that?”

“Yeah . . . I mean, Yes, Ma’am.”

“As you grow older, your behavioral deficit in education and your behavioral excess in insolence no longer will be rewarded.”

“What do you mean?”

“Albie, our nation is in trouble. It’s as though we’re a nation on fire. If we Americans continue our current trend, good jobs will become increasingly difficult to obtain, and what few will exist will be hard to fill as a consequence of our institutionalized, ossified, educational system . . . too few qualified, American graduates. Let me ask you a question. What would you like to do when you yourself graduate high school?”

“I don’t know . . . like go to college, I guess.”

“What would you study to become?”

“I never thought about it . . . like maybe an actor.”

“What do you think are your chances for success?”

“I don’t know.”

“Statistically, rather small. Any other thoughts?”

“Albie sat silently, thinking. Finally, he said, “I know one thing . . . I want to be rich.”

His mother nodded. “How do you plan to become rich?”

“Well, when you and Avery . . . .”

His mother’s sharp interruption startled him. “I’ve told you not to refer to your father or me by our given names. He’s your father. I’m your mother. As I just said, show some respect . . . it’s one of the Ten Commandments given to us by God.”

“So, my teacher once said that there is no God.”

“How does she know? Wiser people than she, including many scientists, believe that God does exist. Besides, even if He doesn’t, mustn’t we act as though He does? The consequence of not doing so will be anarchy then tyranny. Understand?”

“No.”

“I recognize that I use big words. I do it intentionally to serve as a model for you to imitate. Language is important. Learn it. Value it. Language is the road to knowledge. Knowledge is the road to wisdom.”

Albie returned his mother’s words with a blank stare. She shook her head in frustration.

“Anyways, when Avery . . . I mean, when Dad and you die, I figure like I’ll have all your money since you don’t much like Sis and Bro. Then, I’ll invest it in something and get rich.”

Tears pooled in Evelyn’s eyes. Hastily, she dried them with a handkerchief. “Your father and I aren’t planning to die so soon. Statistically, you’ll probably be middle-aged by the time we do. Besides, given current economic trends, the federal government probably will have taken most of it away through taxes and inflation or outright confiscation.”

“What’s inflation?”

“Increasing the supply of money in an economy without a concomitant increase in production. Say we’re playing the game, Monopoly. Each of us has a certain amount of money. Then, somebody doubles the amount that each of us has without adding more properties to the game. What happens to the prices?”

“They double?”

“Correct. That’s inflation.”

This time, Albie considered his mother’s words. “Well then, like maybe I’ll just bum around . . . go surfing with my friends or somethin’.”

“Do you think that you might marry . . . have a family?”

“I don’t know. Maybe . . . no, probably I’ll just hook up with some chick. If she has a good job, like she’ll support the both of us till you and . . . till you and Dad die.”

Evelyn barely could control her emotions. She felt torn between slapping her son again and hugging the boy whom she viewed as being led astray through no fault of his own. “God only knows what will happen when his hormones start raging,” she thought. Suddenly a surge of anger shot through her. “My little boy was born innocent. What are we Americans allowing those misguided, self-serving, ideologues to do to him?”

Anger is a powerful emotion. Channeled properly, it can power great good; channeled improperly, it can power great harm. Evelyn recognized that power, but she could not identify which channel hers would take. She believed that another failure in parenting might drive her mad. “Mad enough to do what?” she wondered for the first time in her heretofore, highly self-regulated life.

Becoming lost in her own thoughts, she closed her eyes. The minutes passed. Albie sat quietly, wondering what his mother was thinking.

Suddenly, her eyes opened. “Who really is to blame?” she asked herself. “The politicians? The bureaucrats? The local school-board? The principal? The teachers?” It seemed to her that they all were at fault. “What we Americans are allowing is ideological pirates to plunder our heritage. They’re subverting our most precious, personal, American Ideals . . . self-reliance; personal responsibility; respect for property and person and, most of all, knowledge.”

She was beginning to believe that a conspiracy did exist. The elitists in Big Government, Big Business, and Big Media against the rest of the people. No, it was not an explicit conspiracy of secret organizations. It was an implicit conspiracy of like-minded, influential elitists who regarded the Constitution with contempt as an archaic relic deserving only of re-interpretation pursuant to the accepted views of the moment. She asked herself, “Am I crazy, or am I right?”

Growing impatient, Albie intruded on her thoughts. “Can I go now?” After a disapproving glance from his mother, he corrected his grammar, “May I go now?”

Feeling a weary frustration beyond that which her words could describe, she merely nodded in the affirmative. Albie sprang to his feet. He ran to the front door, opened it, then slammed it behind his departing footsteps as he ran headlong into what Aldous Huxley(8) might call our “brave, new world”.

Reference
8. Huxley, A: Brave New World. New York: Harper & Row Publishers (1932, 1946).

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