They taught him how to milk cows and now they expected him to tame lions. Perhaps they expected him to behave like all good lion tamers. Use a whip and a chair. But what happens to the best lion tamer when he puts down his whip and his chair.
Goddamnit! It was wrong. He felt cheated, he felt almost violated. He felt cheated for himself, and he felt cheated for guys like Joshua Edwards who wanted to teach and who didn’t know how to teach because he’d been pumped full of manure and theoretical hogwash. Why hadn’t anyone told them, in plain, frank English, just what to do? Couldn’t someone, somewhere along the line, have told them? Not one single college instructor? Not someone from the board of Ed, someone to orientate them after they’d passed the emergency exam? Not anyone? Now one sonofabitch somewhere who gave a good goddamn? Not even Stanley? Not even Small? Did they have to figure it out for themselves, sink and swim, kill or be killed?
Rick had never been told how to stop in his class. He’d never been told what to do with a second term student who doesn’t even know how to write down his own goddamn name on a sheet of paper. He didn’t know, he’d never been advised on the proper tactics for dealing with a boy whose I.Q. was 66, a big, fat, round, moronic 66. He hadn’t been taught about kids’ yelling out in class, not one kid, not the occasional “difficult child” the ed courses had loftily philosophized about, not him. But a whole goddamn, shouting, screaming class load of them all yelling their sonofbitching heads off. What do you do with a kid who can’t read even though he’s fifteen years old? Recommend him for special reading classes, sure. And what do you do when those special reading classes are loaded to the asshole, packed because there are kids who can’t read in abundance, and you have to take only those who can’t read the worst, dumping them onto a teacher who’s already overloaded and those who doesn’t want to teach a remedial class to begin with?
And what do you with that poor ignorant jerk? Do you call him on class, knowing damn well he hasn’t read the assignment because he doesn’t know how to read? Or do you ignore him? Or do you ask him to stop by after school, knowing he would prefer playing stickball to learning how to read.
And knowing he considers himself liberated the moment the bell sounds at the end of the eighth period.
What do you do when you’ve explained something patiently and fully, explained it just the way you were taught to explain in your education courses, explained in minute detail, and you look out at your class and see that stretching, vacant wall of blank, blank faces and you know nothing has penetrated, not a goddamn thing has sunk in? What do you do then?
Give them all board erasers to clean.
What do you do when you call on a kid and ask “What did that last passage mean?”and the kid stands there without any idea of what the passage meant , and you know that he’s not alone, you know every other kid in the class hasn’t the faintest idea either? What the hell do you do then? Do you go home and browse through the philosophy of education books the G.I bill generously provided. Do you scratch your ugly head and seek enlightenment from the educational psychology texts? Do you consult Dewey?
And who the hell do you condemn, just who?
Do you condemn elementary schools for sending a kid on to high school without knowing how to read, without knowing how to write his own name on a piece of paper? Do you condemn the masterminds who plot the education systems of a nation, or a state or a city?