Chris Laliberte Mr. J. Defoe EAC4U March 2nd, 2010 If Only I'd Stayed In My Hole It is a beautiful spring morning.

The birds are singing, the sun is shining, and the sweet smell of summer is carried on the wind. A horde of cute little gophers poke their heads out as the sun crests the horizon; nature's veritable whack-a-mole. For you see, the serenity lasts only moments before these poor creatures realize that all that lies ahead of them is a day of turmoil and strife as they desperately fight for survival, doing everything they can to avoid being the one picked out of the ground by a bear as a bird takes a worm, mangled and chewed and chomped to a bloody pulp by the massive creature's powerful jaws. This brings me to the state of our educational system today. School is a terror, an empire of tyranny in which the student is constantly graded and harassed, and there's that class looming ahead of them where they hope they can go another day without der Teacher remembering that homework assignment that was due three weeks ago Tuesday. It's as though these kids spend the whole day walking down a dark alley, praying that they don't get jumped by their History teacher, or bitten by a rabies-ridden, beady-eyed math quiz. Then, when they finally do get to the end of that alley, they still have to cross the street; and it's a bad neighborhood. Their only chance is to make a break for their bedroom, or the basement, or the backyard, ducking and weaving behind cover as they go; anything to avoid a parental drive-by. As if the stress of school weren't enough, the parents only make things worse by shooting questions your way about homework, the science project, the French quiz, that eight million word essay due tomorrow that you haven't started yet, Jenny called but tell her you're busy because you're not going out until you get your chores done and we're having dinner at six is lasagna okayandyourfatherwantstoseeyouandyouruniversityapplicationsaredueandalettercamefromthatjoboffera ndInevergettospendanytimewithyouanymoreandblahblahblahblahblahblahblAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Bruised and battered, the teen finally makes it back to her room, where dear little Nibbles is running in his wheel, spared the torture his subterranean cousins must endure. Outside, the gopher, stressed, terrified, heart racing a thousand beats a minute, doesn't know where to turn anymore. Left bears. Right - bears. Dead ahead - bears. The only place to go is back into its hole, but that's not an option, because it seems that just as soon as he left a pair of badgers nestled themselves rather comfortably in his little bunker and won't let him back in until he's scurried about in a frenzy for six hours. His only hope of getting back in early is if his mangled remains happen to be strewn in such a way that they land back in the hole; but we all know bears are terrible at basketball, so that would never happen. Instead, the only hope these little mammals have is to stand as straight as they can, bring their tiny paws up in a salute, give their little performance and hope someone else fails miserably. The hardest working students generally have nothing to worry about. Even the odd missed due date or poor grade is skimmed over by their superior, passed off as a bad day at the office; a luxury the 'less proficient' students do not seem to have, as they are often picked out first come feeding time. This, however, depends entirely on the mood of the bear. If he's extra hungry, in a bad mood, or just downright sadistic, he has the option of chewing up whomever he chooses; and sometimes the best and brightest are the most delicious. Is this really the way it ought to be? Should the teacher really be this big, looming monster, terrorizing the students on a daily basis? Ever since first grade, the work these kids are assigned is given a grade – either alphabetical or numeric – that is meant to reflect the quality of the piece, nothing more. However, this number seems to be given far more importance than it merits, with parents and teachers alike doling out consequences for low grades. Thus are the seeds of fear sewn in the hearts of our youth. Work is no longer seen as an opportunity to improve onesself, but rather the difference between safety and punishment, eliminating any possible benefits. As such, why should they have any motivation to do it? So they put it off. And put it off. And put it off.

Suddenly, it's eleven o'clock the night before, and that fear – that fear of reprimand, the fear that's developed from an early age and rears its ugly head at every opportunity – creeps up on them, and they write that essay; they cram for that test; anything to avoid the consequences of their procrastination. Sure, they pass; but it hasn't helped them with anything. They still don't care; they are still afraid; but, worst of all, they still resent their mentors. School is meant to be a place of learning. True education, however, is a team effort. You can't just beat the information into their heads with a mallet; it doesn't work that way. Instead of just dragging their heels, only putting up with those damned kids because it pays the bills, teachers need to understand their role. They aren't there to pass these little brats so they can get them out of their hair. What teachers should be doing is working with each student, helping them to discover what it is they love to do and to help them excel at it. Parents, too, need to pay better attention to their kids. It is their responsibility to listen, and learn what their kids want in life and help them to achieve it. By pushing them down some path – be it a selfish attempt at vicarious achievements, or the potential mommy or daddy think they should realize – the parent is causing more harm than he could imagine. Is this intentional? Of course not; but neither is a train wreck, and that is essentially what the system is, and will be until the maintenance crew starts doing their job properly. So, next time you take your seat, briefcase full of assignments as you head off to work, look out the window and imagine what it would be like if the little gophers out there could frolic through the meadows in perfect harmony with the bears, instead of fearing utter mutilation.

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