We don’t need no thought control
Thrust n' Perry
I was a lucky four-year-old.
My parents (with a little help from Sesame Street) taught
me to read and when I took those fateful steps down the mean
streets of Glencoe on the first day of kindergarten, I was
already ahead of my classmates.
When, inevitably, the school board advised my parents I was “above” the
regular education system, I was placed in French Immersion,
and by Grade 3, identified as “gifted” and segregated
through the now (thankfully) defunct “Extended Learning
They were wrong. The whole damn system is wrong. Sure, I could
source their analysis to IQ testing or wade into the age-old “nature/nurture” debate,
but I’ve only got experience to go on.
Having spent a mere four months working in two French-first-language
elementary schools in London, two half-days a week, I can’t
profess to be an experienced educator, but I have learned one
thing: there is no reason to believe grades to be representative
Intelligence, as defined by academic standards, is no more
than obedience. A student who does the homework, goes to class
and studies for exams is undoubtedly going to get a higher
grade than that of a motivated activist or a talented actor
(or student journalist, for that matter) who concentrates on
intellectual pursuits outside the box — ones that won’t
ever be graded.
Do my (normally high) grades bring me any kind of personal
satisfaction? Other than helping me get into a graduate program,
they mean nothing. High school grades get you into university;
undergraduate grades keep you here, then get you into graduate
programs — that’s it.
In other words, once I’ve jumped through all the hoops,
(potentially) carrying a high average right through a PhD,
I’ll be judged on something else at a job interview — it
could come down to my negligence toward haircuts.
Within the education system, you’re judged on your ability
to demonstrate not necessarily learning, but compliance. I
teach 40 entirely capable Anglophone children a week, helping
them overcome a language barrier so they can “meet the
standards.” Despite their aptitude in things mechanical
or knowledge of history and geography, they’re still
marginalized (not officially, of course) and get called “the
Sure, kids’ peers can be cruel, but our socialization
and educational systems haven’t grown up yet either:
it still rewards us for fitting into pre-defined places. It’s
not about what we learn in school anymore, but rather how we
learn in school — and if education continues to overshadow
learning, the gift of independent thought will continue to