Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.
Date: Fri, 1 Nov 1996 09:41:30 -0500 (EST)
I just wrote this piece for an electronic journal column. Though you might be interested:
Wow, was there more than a chill in the air this pre-dawn, south Georgia morning, and I was in my grubby shorts! Tis two months before Christmas and the thuds I heard along my route was the sound of the dropping temperature, not the beat of my footsteps. It was a hot 78 yesterday morning! Anyway, as my breath smoked, goose bumps erupted all over my body, my fingers lost their feeling, and my bare skin took on a bluish tint, I started thinking cool thoughts of the coming winter and mischievously began singing the Christmas jingle, "Santa Claus is Coming To Town."
Half mumbling the lyrics and half struggling to survive this pre-dawn icebox, I imagined someone wagging a finger at a child with a not-so-veiled warning that, "you better not cry, you better not shout," threatening that this roundish, bearded, brightly dressed, know-it-all, stick-his-beard-in-your-business Santa, will punish misbehavior and/or disobedience with an empty stocking and barrenness under the tree. So, as the song goes, the child is urged to "be good for goodness sake."
Well, there I was all to myself on the dark streets looking at darken windows, I started wondering just how many bratty kids really didn't find colorful presents for them tucked under their trees or nestled comfortably in their stockings. Not many I bet. Their behavior probably didn't have a thing to do with whether or not they received the traditional bounty of this time of year. Seeing visions of those glorious volunteers who will soon be swinging bells as they stumped their feet to keep warm at entrance doors to malls and large department stores, dozens of articles about toy and food drives, I decided that what more than likely determined whether joy or disappointment appeared on the cherub faces of children was whether, by a chance throw of the dice, they were fortunate to be members of "good" families, the "haves", rather than be members of impoverished families, families who had suffered misfortune--if they had any family in the first place. What made their heart sing with salve of being included or throb with the sting of being left out in the midst of abundance and joy was not a matter of whether they were "naughty or nice" but more likely whether they were among the cared for and accepted and remembered rather than among the rejected and neglected and forgotten.
Suddenly, I found myself taking a leap into the classroom listening to a parent and/or teacher admonishing students to be "good" so their their academic stockings can be filled and the bottom of their professional trees piled high with neatly wrapped awards and fat salary checks. What's so wrong, you ask, with the rewards of achievement being heaped on the "good" students, with them receiving a bounty of grades, awards, recognition, achnowledgement while the "bad" students are pelted with clumps of slag? A lot.
Understand, I believe in effort and achievement. But, let's be straight. Being bright or dumb doesn't necessarily have anything to do with being a "good" or "bad" student. The "good" are lucky to have been born to "haves": loving and supportive and encouraging parents, educated parents, parents of strong fiber, parents sufficiently well off to have provided for good educational needs, parents who were able to buy the books and computers, parents who had the time and took the time to read the books and do things with them. The "good" students are lucky to have gone to a good educational public school or private school, to have had an encouraging and supportive educational environment, to have had contact with caring teachers who touched them, to have been taught the needed skillls, and to be relatively free of any physical or emotional or social disability.
At the same time, there are students who are academically naughty and not so nice, but they are still treated as "good" students. They're selfish, put on a good show, have taken crib classes to raise their GPAs, don't care about getting an education. They are street-wise, academic brats, who cut-corners, play the game, rummish the fraternity/sorority files, play up to, cheat, never get caught, could care less about learning, just want the grade and degree by whatever means, cram merely to pass the test or write the paper. Yet, they get the grades. So, they, too, as "good" students, receive the bounty.
And then, there are the "bad" students who are unlucky enough to be debilitated by unsupportive and/or ecomonically impoverished, culturally deprived families, who are restrained because they are the first to reach out for an education, who had little if any encouragement or support, who attended second-rate schools, who didn't have spare money to enrolled in SAT preparation courses, who had to deal with imposing or over-bearing parents, who are encumbered by the dicates of demanding parent programs rather following than their own dreams, who are chained by memories and attitudes and actions of social inequity, economic injustice, racial prejudice, gender bias, physical abuse, and disability. There were no _Newsweek_ or _National Geographics_ laying around on cocktail tables; there was no computer with which to surf the world; there was no one who could afford _Dr. Seuss_ to read to them--if there was anyone who could read. They have the additional burdens and demands on their time and attention to care for families, to hold jobs, to work their way through school. The path to achieving their potential is cluttered, their ecsacy is tempered, their confidences are sedated. They're often placed among the despised, rejected, homeless, neglected, invisible, and forgotten "don't belongs."
Now, I know that many people say that there's nothing wrong with that. "That's life," they explain. "It's a throw of the dice." And, as they rationalize, "Life ain't fair", "It's a dog eat dog world out there." "That's not my concern."
Yet, to me it seems somehow immoral giving out academic attention, toys, and candies only to the supposed "bright" and giving little or nothing to supposedly mediocre or dumb.
Life may not be fair, but it's far more complicated than that, and it's an awful big burden to put soley on any student with hope in his/her heart.
Make it a good day. --Louis-- Louis Schmier (912-333-5947) firstname.lastname@example.org Department of History /~\ /\ /\ Valdosta State University /^\ / \ / /~ \ /~\__/\ Valdosta, Georgia 31698 / \__/ \/ / /\ /~ \ /\/\-/ /^\___\______\_______/__/_______/^\ -_~ / "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\ _ _ / don't practice on mole hills" -\____