Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Thoughts: But Maybe It's None of My Business Anyway

Have you read this article?

(knowing that this article will eventually "disappear" off the link because it is a newspaper article, I will give you the nutshell version):

A high-schooler with poor grades was made to wear a sandwich-board with his grades posted and had to stand on a busy intersection in his town for several hours. His parents, a pastor and his wife, were tired of their son making no effort, and not turning in homework even when they had supervised its completion. The article also mentioned that the parents each had "several academic degrees."

The "comments" listed below the article (for of course, we all can put in our two-cents' worth on everything on the internet, right?) ranged from "good for you, parents! if only everyone would do that" to "the ultimate in child abuse: humiliation--this is where C*lumbine killers come from." Let me put in my own $0.02, though I'm not sure it's even valid, you know?

We lived with similar frustration for sixteen years with our son Don Quixote. In first and second grades, he got straight A's, even if he didn't do his "seatwork," because, as his teachers said, "he get's 100% on every test, and that shows he knows the work." In third grade, the teachers began to clamp down: "Even if he knows it in his head, he still needs to learn to Do. The. Work. like everybody else." (homeschooling was in its infancy at that time, and I didn't know about it. Oh, the difference it would have made!) He always seemed to *not* be paying attention, but could give anything back to the teacher verbatim if asked.

Fast forward to high school. Though he could have been valedictorian easily, Don ended up somewhere near the bottom of the top 10%. He didn't care too much, even though I was frustrated at achievements missed. (one time, when he was about ten years old, my father congratulated him on a good report card, and Don said to him, "well, Grandpa, I could have done a lot better if I'd only APPLIED MYSELF." Guess he was listening at that parent-teacher conference!)

College was the most frustrating of all. We had talks with the academic dean and the head of the History Department (his major). Don failed several classes, by, you guessed it, not turning in any work. I don't know if all colleges work this way, but F's didn't add a "zero" to your average, they just didn't count them at all (in other words, they didn't work against you, you just "wasted" a credit). Don, brilliant in the extreme, had figured out just how many classes he could "blow" and still have credits enough to get his B.A. We were so angry that last semester, that we "strongly suggested" that he not walk in the Graduation ceremonies, as he had been a (disgrace? not the word I'm looking for. If I think of it, I'll edit this post) to his co-history majors, who had done all of the work.

I understand the frustration of the parents of that high-schooler. I scolded and cajoled and watched over many papers and assignments for Don, that maybe didn't get turned in anyway. At college, I had no way of knowing at all, a hundred miles away.

Later, as you may know, Don was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. This explained so many, many things. It wouldn't have made one bit of difference if we had made Don wear a sandwich board and stand on the corner by the mall. The biggest frustration with "aspies" is that, because they are wired differently, us "NT's" (neurologically typical people) can Never Understand How They Think. So, although the boy in the article maybe is "normal," and just doesn't try hard enough, maybe it's Something Else.

One more thought (because this is 'way longer than I thought it would be). WWJD? I don't see anywhere in Scripture where Jesus humiliated anyone (well, except for maybe the Pharisees) who was struggling. And I have to look at how He deals with me: Even when I should be called out for public ridicule for the things I do, He never, ever treats me with anything but love, dripping down like I was doused with honey. Why do we always forget that the way God treats us is the way we Should be treating our children?

So I said a prayer for the boy in the story. And two for the parents. Lord, show them the situation for what it is, and let Your love rule. If it was the right thing to do to help the boy "shape up," so be it. But if it was out of frustration, let this be an opportunity for learning on both sides. In any case, Lord, glorify Yourself.


Inglesidemom said...

At first I thought what the parents did was witty and dead on. You have made me think and as a result, my mind has veered from it's original course.

Poor kid. Poor parents! To be in a situation like that and feel so lost and frustrated.

Julie said...

Maybe it is because my kids (and my friends' kids who have diagnoses such as Asperger's) that I've learned this earlier on in parenting than you did. I completely agree with you. Find out why instead of trying to humiliate a child into learning.