What They Learn in School


School is over, thank god, and all the sufferers, students and teachers are heading home. I gave them all good grades because they were all equally ignorant and it seemed pointless to make distinctions within such consistency. I could have flunked them, of course, and ruined their summer, but then I would have had to deal with them again. If I'd had to see Benny's lizard eyelids and fixed smile again, there is no telling what I might have done.

Benny is the quiet type, who spends all his time at the library . . . circling ones and twos in every book. He has diligently worked his way through 4,000 volumes and, if allowed to continue, will end up defacing all knowledge in the English language. He reminds me of a guest on Geraldo whose passion was adding one on a little calculator. He had a number that he kept adding ones to even as he explained his activity to Geraldo. People of this kind are made, I believe, in school.

Benny's best friend -- amazingly, he has one -- Rodney, collects mass-murderer trading cards. I couldn't have believed it, but there they were, John Gacy, Richard Speck, Juan Corona . . . and all their stats on the back. What's the point? I asked him when I caught him trading in class. "What's the POINT?" Rodney said, totally put off by my squareness. "What's the point of Desert Storm Trading Cards? What's General Schwartzkopf? A legal Gacy, right?"

Well, at least Rodney has political consciousness. But I still think it's gross. Gross is in fact taking over the world. My son went to see a band so gross, the paper said you shouldn't wear any clothes you don't want spattered with stage blood. Maybe this kind of thing prepares them for the real world where the streets are blood-spattered. School surely doesn't. The only thing school prepares anyone for is summer. That's what school is for: getting out of it. That's how it was when I went; it's still that way.

F: Andrei Codrescu teaches at Louisiana State University.

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