The second graders signaled danger straight ahead.  They were screaming, yelling, shouting insults at one another and in general, acting like patients straight out of Bedlam.  Who allowed children to behave in this fashion? What forces combined to shatter their spirits so completely that only self-loathing remained?  That is what I intended to discover, starting from bottom to top, tunneling like an excavator while searching for the fault lines in their stabilization.

A public school provides a social foundation for education and civilization.  It truly is a structural and symbolic anchor in a neighborhood, a community gathering center, a territory of commonality, inclusion, a place of progress and not estrangement or regression to meaner times.  But here it had all gone terribly wrong and I wanted to know how and why.

Someone was leaving but I won’t call her a teacher because I am sure she was not that.  She had a title, a contract, a salary and a baby on the way who was now in danger from the stress-inducing classroom.  An adult was withdrawing from the fracas and another was required to take her place.  It was a clinical substitution and I accepted it as such but it was also my initiation into their tiny house of horrors.

Containment or holding cell was the first impression.  There was nothing there for them and there was nothing of them anywhere to be seen.  No proud math papers, no skillfully rendered drawings of friends and family, no framed illustrations from children’s literature, no dictionaries, no maps, no picture books, no chapter books, no poems in poster form, no science curiosity center, no flashcards, no nothing.  I’d seen this environmental emaciation before and knew it for what it was. Elements of beautiful, uplifting, intriguing, scholarly or exemplary establish an atmosphere and an expectation for learning.  This was an isolation tank intended to separate out the riff-raff so they did not taint the LECB bottom line.

Sadly, the politics of Leave Every Child Behind had run its intended course, educational euthanasia, otherwise known as institutionalized infanticide, pure and simple. Fledgling lives are troubled when forced to persist amidst the pathological elements of abject poverty. Together they are snuggled up on a civic teeter-totter with a dislocated fulcrum, forever out of balance.  We could even it out but we don’t and why is that?