Tag: Truancy

The 13-year-old Desperado

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.

Update: The DC schools are claiming it was all a big misunderstanding. The reporter disagrees.

The A-Student Desperado

From the files of You’ve Got To Be Fucking Kidding Me:

An honor student in Texas was thrown in jail after she missed too many classes at her high school.

A judge issued Diane Tran, 17, a summons Wednesday for her excessive truancy after she missed class. She was arrested in open court.

Last month, Tran was issued a warning by the judge for missing school.

You know, I was an honor student — at least until late in high school. And every semester, I would have the “flu” for a week. That’s what I told my mother and that’s what she pretended to believe. I was unpopular, I was the shortest kid in class and I was shy. I needed a break from the other kids. But I kept up my work and I was on the honor roll, so no one cared. The point of school was to be educated, not to show up. Schools are not fucking jails and the people who ran mine didn’t treat it like one.

But … my reasons for skipping school were not her reasons. This story just gets better:

Tran said she works both full-time and part-time jobs, in addition to taking advanced and college level courses.

“She goes from job to job from school. She stays up until 7 a.m. in the morning doing her homework,” said Devin Hill, a classmate and co-worker.

On top of that, Tran said her parents spilt up and moved away, leaving her to support her younger sister.

Yeah. She’s skipping school occasionally because she’s so tired from working a job and a fucking half to support her family. What a monster! We can’t let responsible people like that roam the streets. Better for her to have just dropped out when she turned 16.

The judge admits he wanted to make an example of her. He did make an example … of what happens when tiny-brained men get a little bit of power and just how insanely stupid our Zero Tolerance policies have gotten.

Actually, no, I take that back. She is setting an example and it’s one I think should be set. Let’s make it policy: any student who maintains their grades and works a job and a half gets to skip school occasionally. Make it a reward for being a model citizen.

Look, I understand that that the law is the law. But laws untempered by mercy, justice and common sense are useless. Zero Tolerance policies and mindless obedience to the rules are going to destroy a generation of kids before all is said and done. Literally.