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Friday, November 12, 2004

Smokey Briggs

Sage Views

By Smokey Briggs

This is what is
wrong with America

Do you want to know what is wrong with the world?

Sit back for a moment and I will tell you. I had it spelled out for me last night in 17 simple words - one sentence.

The ironic part was that this one sentence was printed on my eldest daughter’s report card.

I think you will see the irony here in a minute.

Now, Ruby Leigh takes after Mom. She is both bright and well behaved and her first grade report card makes her dad most proud. So far, all I do when Ruby hands me a report card is smile, tell her she makes me proud, and then silently wonder why my report card was filled with angry looking scribbles.

My best guess is that the old dame that was my first grade teacher was crackers and hated young boys with good imaginations. Or, maybe it had something to do with live animals being introduced into the classroom. Who knows?

Anyway, my eyes are skipping along a line of good marks and then they drop to attendance.

That too is good - Mom is in charge of getting her to school on time and she does not fail.

Then, in small type below all the marks is THE SENTENCE.

Seventeen simple words.

I read the words, and then read them again. It took a minute.

Finally though, I realized that I now possessed the ultimate illustration of what is wrong with our society.

Here, printed innocently on my daughter’s report card was the very essence of everything that is broken in America distilled into 17 words.

The words?

“A student having excessive absences, defined by Texas attendance Laws, may not receive credit, nor be promoted.”

You know what got to me first?

The fact that the petty bureaucrat that typed that sentence capitalized the “L” in “Laws.”

No rule of proper English required Laws to begin with a capital. It was done to add emphasis.

It was done to say, “listen up, the law says this, and I am the law.”

But hey, I expect that kind of junk from bureaucrats.

What really got me was the very plain message - attendance counts more than knowledge.

What do we care if a kid attends 2 classes or 200 if he or she can do the work?

If Child A can read, write, add, subtract and divide well enough, what does it matter if Child A sat through a certain number of classes?

It does not matter.

Well, it should not matter.

But it does. It matters to the state. It matters to the bureaucrats.

Attendance is how schools get paid by the state. No attendee, no payee.

The message of those 17 words is sick.

The message is that school is not about learning. It is not about knowledge.

It is about money. School is now about keeping the books straight.

The message is that no matter how much little Johnny knows, if he misses too many classes we are going to punish him because he cost us a couple of bucks - with absolutely no regard for whether he can pass the test.

This sentence is the ultimate expression of an attitude that holds form over substance, rules over responsibility, attendance over knowledge.

It is the ultimate expression of bureaucracy defeating common sense.

And here I thought school was about learning how to read and write.

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