No Child Left Alone

May 31, 2007

I was one of the lucky ones — I escaped.
by Tammy Drennan 2007

One of the most frightening things about today’s increasingly authoritarian and therapeutic public school world is that there is almost no chance of a child who wants to be left alone actually having that option.

I was one of those children. From fourth grade on, I hated school. I resented the time it consumed both at school and at home, resented being told what I could read – and sometimes  what I couldn’t (don’t read ahead in your textbook – why not?), resented the hours on end of boredom (try not to look at the clock for ten minutes, try, try, try. What?! Only two minutes have passed?).

But I had one great advantage over children today – school authorities didn’t pay nearly as much attention to kids back then. We weren’t tested as much, analyzed as much, evaluated as much, or tracked as much. By way of example, I skipped almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the 8th grade, and no one ever said a word about it. My parents never knew, I passed the grade, no demerits or detentions or suspensions. It all started one morning when someone announced over the intercom system that anyone who missed two days in a row would be reported to his or her parents. Hmm, I wondered, what about every other day? I spent my days hiding out in the woods with a big bag of books — a little scared but loving it. Can you imagine a kid today getting away with that?

Ninth grade was the year my school started going modern. We got a big new building with open classrooms (100+ kids to a room), an ala carte lunchroom and pop music played in the hallways. Oh yes, and a guidance counselor who cared. I got sent to him from time to time, of course – why did you miss school yesterday, why won’t you take off your jacket, why won’t you shower with the other girls after gym, why did you come to school barefoot, why did you sneak a kitten to school, why won’t you just cooperate?

I was untutored in the ways of therapeutics and honestly couldn’t see where any of it was his business (though he could have given me some practical reasons for wearing shoes and leaving kittens at home instead of acting like it was a psychological problem). So I just stood in his office (why won’t you sit down) and repeated, “Just because.” What was the big deal? I wish I could go back and talk to him now, as an adult who could articulate some things. At the time, the only thing I had to my advantage was being incurably obstinate.

Today’s kids don’t stand a chance. The state and its employees feel they have the right to probe, ad nauseum, into every area of a child’s life and recommend or even force “remedies” to make him conform to the image of a child of the state. Add to that the endless testing to make sure all the munchkins are acquiring the right attitudes and even a little knowledge, and what you have is a generation of children badgered and tormented beyond endurance. It will be interesting to see how long they’ll take it sitting down.

In the meantime, everyone intends to leave no child alone – the left, the right, the middle, the government, the unions, the schools, the reformers, the special interests, the psycho industry, the religionists, the atheists, the social gurus, everyone. That’s the problem with being a state child – when everyone decides they won’t leave you alone, you’re a sitting duck, a sad little duck with your wings clipped, just waiting to see whose bullet is going to hit you.

It makes me thankful I got out while the getting was good, but it breaks my heart for today’s children.