Avery Gagliano is in trouble. Having more than ten unexcused absences from school in the Washington DC public school system, she’s been declared truant. What was she doing? Was she hanging out at the mall? Was she smoking with a bunch of loser? Doing drugs? Voting Republican?
Um, she was being a world-class piano prodigy:
The prodigy, who just turned 13, was one of 12 musicians selected from across the globe to play at a prestigious event in Munich last year and has won competitions and headlined with orchestras nationwide.
But to the D.C. public school system, the eighth-grader from Mount Pleasant is also a truant. Yes, you read that right. Avery’s amazing talent and straight-A grades at Alice Deal Middle School earned her no slack from school officials, despite her parents’ begging and pleading for an exception.
Avery’s parents say they did everything they could to persuade the school system. They created a portfolio of her musical achievements and academic record and drafted an independent study plan for the days she’d miss while touring the world as one of the star pianists selected by a prestigious Lang Lang Music Foundation, run by Chinese pianist Lang Lang, who handpicked Avery to be an international music ambassador.
But the school officials wouldn’t budge, even though the truancy law gives them the option to decide what an unexcused absence is. The law states that an excused absence can be “an emergency or other circumstances approved by an educational institution.”
Avery’s parents can’t afford private school. But I’m hoping some private school will read this article and fall over themselves to give them a discount. I would if I ran a school. It’s also possible that the school will cave now that their idiocy has been splashed all over a newspaper.
The key to understanding the problems in our public education system is the realization that the system does not see kids as individuals who should be enabled to rise to the peak level of their abilities. Nor does it see teachers as the people that can open and develop a child’s mind. It sees the schools as a factory, the teachers as grunt labor and docile little future workers as the product. It sees conformity as the ideal. It exists, in the exact words of “educators” like Arne Duncan, to produce workers for American businesses. Thus the tremendous enthusiasm for universal standards and testing: specification and quality control of the product. Thus the willingness to micromanage teachers and throw the latest greatest education fad at them: what you expect those commoners to know how to teach? Thus the enthusiasm for year-round schooling: more product is better product. Thus the hatred for school choice: it could liberate children from the government system (or even worse, force the system to reform).
Little Avery is a piano genius and a straight-A student and that’s great. But the system doesn’t exist to create piano geniuses or straight-A students. She’s not being an obedient little drone, hobbling her way to the quality-controlled, overmanaged, top-down lesson some Washington bureaucrat has decreed for her. And for that, she must be punished.