Sunday, September 21, 2008

Something I needed to tell you

"A" was a troubled young man. He was charming and attractive, and basically a good kid. He would do fine when I sat down with him and talked things out, but could not function in a class of 40. He was angry, and it would often come out in seemingly ridiculous behavior. Once he wiped dogshit all over the inside of the classroom because he was struggling with an issue outside of school and wanted to hurt others.

On Friday night, it is still unclear what happened, but what I understand is that an argument erupted into physicalities--as often happens in our environment. It was broken up and A headed home--about a block away. The young man he had fought with was waiting for him. A was shot straight on in the chest. He was rushed to a hospital that my wife has often worked at, where he died on the table. He was not a good student and tried his best to grow into a good man, but he was 17 years old. He never really got a chance to grow into one.

When the shooter is found, he will be crucified, but it won't really solve anything.

The school is full of good, smart, attractive young men and women, who have had the worst indignities visited upon them. Some grow into amazing leaders in the face of adversity, many grow hard and bitter and sociopathic, and most just do what they need to survive and get through and end up somewhere in between; a reasonably large number die before they see their twentieth birthday.

On Monday, or some rapidly approaching other day after another good youth dies, the Mayor will go on the TV again and remind everyone how much he cares and give the police some bigger guns and vilify students for gang involvements and tell everyone he will lock up the evil shooter and throw away the key.

And then the next day or the day after another gunshot will sound, and another good young person will be dead.

When people feel powerless, they seize power. The rich play games and toy with others, the middle class buy stuff and the poor, well they grab anything they can have the tiniest semblance of control over.

Or any of us can devote our lives to service and improve the world and help others in a kind of power that does not melt.

However, as I walk into school tomorrow, students will sit in classes, 40 of which have no regular instructor, many of which are core subjects with over 40 students enrolled in them, and no funding for the very extra curricular programs which teach students to turn to community improvement instead of violence to feel meaningful and powerful. And they will grieve and try to come up with a thoughtful response. In some they will be berated by their instructor or sub for not "paying attention" or "sitting quietly". If they are lucky, they'll be able to see a counselor.

Can you imagine just sitting in a classroom, told that you are ignorant and need to take your education more seriously, and not having anyone in that room to qualified and interested in educating you? It's enough to drive any person insane.

Of course, that's not every classroom, and there are a good number of teachers--many smarter and stronger than me--who try to make up for that, or what I do--try to grow the tools so that the students can voice than injustice and demand change.

We have told the district again and again that the students need a loving, consistent, competent adult in every classroom from day one. Instead they point to a dearth of funds, pour millions into their pet schools, and sit on their $500 million surplus.

When your (and I don't mean you personally) kid grows up and makes a mistake that swindles ten thousand people out of their retirements or homes, he'll give a simple "my bad", we'll pay our taxes to save his ass, and he'll parachute into a beautiful pile of millions he made off of his incompetences and improprieties.

When my kid makes a mild mistake or no mistake at all, he'll won't see another sunrise.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? I see none of the three.

But I don't say this without hope. Everyday is a beautiful struggle, and while today is far stormier than most, it has meaning and tomorrow I will be ready, and I will be a healing drizzle misting over the scorched earth that my students miraculously burst forth from, and grow along their prodigious paths.

In the end, many will inexplicably make it, and I hold hope that they will forgive you and I for the sins we have visited upon them.

3 Comments:

Anonymous dirt said...

An unnecessary ending of life that is tragic not only for the deceased and his family, but also for the assailant who's life has been seriously altered/limited. I am sorry to hear about this loss.

6:52 AM  
Blogger Hybrid Hopes said...

oh xian.
death is supposed to be in my chosen profession from time to time, not yours.

4:26 AM  
Blogger xian said...

Thanks. I appreciate your words.

11:25 PM  

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