I noticed early on that my special-ed boys often sat at their desks with their heads down or casually staring off into space, as if tracking motes in their eyes, while I proceeded with my lesson. A special-ed caseworker would arrive, take their assignments, and disappear with the boys into the resource room. The students would return the next day with completed assignments.
âoeDid you do this yourself?â Iâ(TM)d ask, dubious.
They assured me that they did. I became suspicious, however, when I noticed that they couldnâ(TM)t perform the same work on their own, away from the resource room. A special-ed caseworkerâ(TM)s job is to keep her charges from failing. A failure invites scrutiny and reams of paperwork. The caseworkers do their jobs.
Brandon has been on the special-ed track since he was nine. He knows his legal rights as well as his caseworkers do. And he plays them ruthlessly. In every debate I have with him about his low performance, Brandon delicately threads his response with the very sinews that bind him. After a particularly easy midterm, I made him stay after class to explain his failure.
âoeAn âFâ(TM)?!â I said, holding the test under his nose.
âoeYou were supposed to modify that test,â he countered coolly. âoeI only had to answer nine of the 27 questions. The nine I did are all right.â
His argument is like a piece of fine crystal that he rolls admiringly in his hand. He demands that I appreciate the elegance of his position. I do, particularly because my own is so weak.
Yet while the process of education may be deeply absorbing to Brandon, he long ago came to dismiss the content entirely. For several decades, white Anglo-Saxon malesâ"Brandonâ(TM)s ancestorsâ"have faced withering assault from feminism- and multiculturalism-inspired education specialists. Armed with a spiteful moral rectitude, their goal is to sever his historical reach, to defame, cover over, dilute . . . and then reconstruct.
In todayâ(TM)s politically correct textbooks, Nikki Giovanni and Toni Morrison stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Mark Twain, William Faulkner, and Charles Dickens, even though both women are second-raters at best. But even in their superficial aspects, the textbooks advertise publishersâ(TM) intent to pander to the prevailing PC attitudes. The books feature page after page of healthy, exuberant young girls in winning portraits. Boys (white boys in particular) will more often than not be shunted to the background in photos or be absent entirely or appear sitting in wheelchairs.
The underlying message isnâ(TM)t lost on Brandon. His keen young mind reads between the lines and perceives the folly of all that heâ(TM)s told to accept. Because he lacks an adult perspective, however, what he cannot grasp is the ruthlessness of the war that the education reformers have waged. Often when he provokes, itâ(TM)s simple boyish tit for tat.
A week ago, I dispatched Brandon to the library with directions to choose a book for his novel assignment. He returned minutes later with his choice and a twinkling smile.
âoeI got a grrreat book, Mr. Garibaldi!â he said, holding up an old, bleary, clothbound item. âoeCan I read the first page aloud, pahlease?â
My mind buzzed like a fly, trying to discover some hint of mischief.
âoeWhoâ(TM)s the author?â
âoeAh, Joseph Conrad,â he replied, consulting the frontispiece. âoeCan I? Huh, huh, huh?â
âoeI guess so.â
Brandon eagerly stood up before the now-alert class of mostly black and Puerto Rican faces, adjusted his shoulders as if straightening a prep-school blazer, then intoned solemnly: âoeThe Nigger of the âNarcissusâ(TM) ââ"twinkle, twinkle, twinkle. âoeChapter one. . .
Merry mayhem ensued. Brandon had one of his best days of the year.
Boys today feel isolated and outgunned, but many, like Brandon, donâ(TM)t lack pluck and courage. They often seem to have more of it than their parents, who writhe uncomfortably before a system steeled in the armor of âoesocial conscience.â The game, parents whisper to themselves, is to play along, to maneuver, to outdistance your rival. Brandonâ(TM)s struggle is an honest one: to preserve truth and his own integrity.
Boys who get a compartment on the special-ed train take the ride to its end without looking out the window. They wait for the moment when they can step out and scorn the rattletrap that took them nowhere. At the end of the line, some, like Brandon, may have forged the resiliency of survival. But thatâ(TM)s not what school is for.
Any essay with a line as pithy as "Brandon delicately threads his response with the very sinews that bind him" deserves a mention.
I don't have anything to add, the author presents this perfectly. I only regret I can't post it here in full. I'm not completely sold on the education vs boys thing, but I relate 100% with Brandon.