The problem began when he was a student in elementary school in Fayetteville, then on to another school, and has now followed him into his seventh year of schooling, in junior high school. His math skills are stuck somewhere at around 4th grade, and yet every year he gets passed to the next level above him.
He has dreams - or fantasies, rather - of being a computer programmer one day.
You can’t write about something like this without revealing truths about yourself, and in my case, the truth is that I flunked 8th grade, which saved me, in many ways. I gained a measure of self-confidence, and ironically - even though I briefly had the stigma of being a “flunky” until I began to make the Honor’s List - I was finally free of the bullying that had marked the first two years of my life at Knob Noster Junior High School in Missouri, a school I will despise to my dying day.
We were aware of his severe difficulties with math several years ago when he used to hang out at our house, and his teacher told us that, in her opinion, he really should be held back a year, and not only for his math difficulties.
And yet here he is today, in 7th grade, convinced he will be a failure because of his inability to master the most basic concepts.
“Look at me,” he once told me, “you know I’ll be homeless when I grow up.”
This is the sort of piece which automatically invites the shallow among us to launch into an anti-public school screed, where they can give vent to their rage about teachers, Common Core conspiracy theories, liberals, Unions, the United Nations and diversity . . . just to scratch the surface of their madness.
I suspect the problem is far more complex than their simplistic minds can handle.
I have long felt that those who fail a grade in school should be afforded some sort of counseling (here come the yowls from those who would dismiss this as some sort of “new age” thinking) but I have seen far too many kids become discouraged when they fail. Popular culture would have bullies rise from the ranks of those who have flunked, but all too many victims come from that class, as well.
February is right around the corner, and though Tracy is trying to help him with his math, his depression when it comes to school often overwhelms him. It colors how he sees himself as a human being.
Passing him along to the next grade, as though he were simply in a herd of cattle, would be an act of academic cruelty, which would create ripples far, wide and deep in the river of his life.
Quote of the Day
Politicians and journalists share the same fate in that they often understand tomorrow the things they talk about today. - Helmut Schmidt