A friend of mine sent me an e-mail about Holland and Jaime:
AAAAAHHHHHH!!! I knew you wouldn’t go for the traditional happy ending and yet I got sucked in anyway! LOVED the book, but it broke my heart a little. I thought you’d like to know that.
Umm, I thought it was a happy ending. The last story is my favourite one, and I read it when I need to boost myself out of some pit of angst and/or self-pity.
Oh, well. Shall leave that one for the psychologists to contemplate.
So, Errant Tiger Cub is back. I fired him last spring (after he’d arrived for the third consecutive week without his homework done), explaining to his parents that I obviously wasn’t the person to help him, and that he’d probably do better with a large male tutor. But his mother believed that I was the best tutor for him, and she literally begged me to give it another shot. What the hell: I’m up for a challenge (or I’m a masochist).
I can’t get a handle on Tiger Cub. There’s nothing that’s screaming – or even muttering – learning disability; there doesn’t seem to be a reason for his behaviour. Thus, as he handed me another piece of writing that was about 5 years behind expectations, I just stared at him. Then a voice in my head started quoting Abraham Lincoln: “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”
Now, I’m not some closet philanthropist who looks for the good in everybody. I just wanted to survive the next 58 minutes. So I asked him some questions about himself.
Funny. When I first met him and asked these questions, I got very different answers. Answers that were clearly lies (because he couldn’t actually discuss any of the classics that he read or tell me the name of the medieval composers he liked to play on the piano).
Turns out that Tiger Cub, aged 15, likes to watch The Family Channel. He likes the Smurf movie. He doesn’t read at all. The only computer game he likes to play is online chess.
No vampires? No killing? No sex, drugs or rock ‘n roll?
How old are you again, child? I think this might explain why you’re behaving like you’re 10.
I don’t think this is something Tiger Cub’s parents insist on. Usually, kids are rebellious. Usually, kids are desperate to grow up. Usually, parents who like to keep their children young end up with said kids hanging out at someone else’s house, doing all the stuff that’s banned in their house. But Tiger Cub’s parents would like him to be more mature. I think this is his idea of rebellion.
So I gave him some homework: watch The Big Bang Theory and South Park; kill some space aliens on your computer; blast some Anthrax.
While I’m not to the bottom of this issue yet, it feels like one of those eureka moments. Tiger Cub’s method of dealing with responsibility is to pull the innocence/ignorance thing.
Everyone knows how I feel about ignorance being passed off as innocence. But it’s something I come up against every day. Many of my students are very dull people: they don’t read or watch interesting television or talk to people. They don’t get bored and decide to piss teachers off by asking ridiculously difficult questions – actually, they don’t tend to ask questions at all. They’re not passionate about anything.
Why would a parent want a person like that living in their house? When a child is brain-damaged to the point where they can’t live a normal life, we call them a “vegetable”. We say this is a tragedy. But walking vegetables are okay? It’s nice when they sit silently at the table so that we can discuss important things?
Well, people, here’s the problem: schools don’t like vegetables. When you deprive your children of everything but “clean” television and grammar workbooks, you get a vegetable. You can pray for all the good grades you want, but they won’t be coming. No tutor can overpower years of instilled ignorance in one semester.
Now I have to give a variation of the above message to Tiger Cub’s parents: when you allow your child to remain ignorant, you get a vegetable.
We could boil The Vegetable into English mush, but he’ll be of better texture and flavour if we roast his arse over some good hot coals.