SCHOOL AND JAIL:
Some of you have come from a place where authority figures watch your every move. They check your name off to make sure you’re where you’re supposed to be every second of the day. They get angry if you wear forbidden clothes or carry contraband or eat certain foods at certain times and places. They are always on the lookout for drugs. They worry that you’re trying to manipulate the system, take over and run the place, form cliques. If they don’t like your attitude, they may write you up, put you in solitary, send you to Supermax, deny you privileges, threaten your future. And, of course, all this is being done to make you a better person.
After a few years of being treated this way, all you can think about is the day when you’re sprung and can hit the streets, free!
Prison? Nah, all too often that’s public high school I’ve just described. You’ll notice I said nothing about learning anything. Students and teachers are so busy hating each other, doing numbers on each other, hassling—they sometimes forget why they’re supposed to be there.
It can be comforting to be in prison instead of school because learning is hard and so is teaching. If you approach this class expecting that I’m going to hassle you about your appearance, your lateness or absences, your food and soda, your homework coming in late, and so on—you’re going to be disappointed. You may get mad at me for not providing you with the discipline you need. Tough! Provide your own! This ain’t high school!
The only thing I claim expertise in is writing. I can’t make you a better person. I’m not going to try. Naturally, I want you to be neat, clean, polite, punctual, organized, friendly, chem-free, hardworking, and cheerful. But the only thing I’m going to talk to you about is your writing.
When we get to the writing, I’ll have a lot to say.