Operation Iraqi Freedom & The Grading Policy


I write about education and what I think that should mean or be, both criticisms and hopes, and stories about the kids in the public school that I work. This post is about Iraq and 2004, and something innocuous I wrote last school year that has knocked me off my axis. I’m afraid for my five year old son, who feels as deeply as I do, and who has as hard a time forgetting the capitals of states as I do the bright white flash and the return-fire.

Maybe five years ago I had a Dominican girl in class who was terrified of public speaking, even in front of our class of ten. I more or less forced her, using every coercive teacher trick I knew, because I was always taught to face your fears. I’m not sure if that was the right thing to do. She was trembling even after she was finished, and although she kept coming to class, she cowered in the last-seat-last-row for the rest of the year. She volunteered for nothing more. I wrote about my experience in Iraq as part of an effort to raise money for a scholarship, and I’ve always been told to “just talk about it, you’ll feel better.” But that’s a donkey shit lollipop.

What is education but life itself? Like Tim O’Brien alluded to in The Things They Carried, there is no moral. He writes, “in the end, really, there’s nothing much to say about a true war story, except maybe ‘Oh.’” I’d probably use a different word than “oh”. Lessons? My war scored a 72%, but I’m pretty sure my personal involvement in it was an 87% first semester and an 85% second semester. “No more to build on there.”

We smashed their schools, burned them, and shot people based on the time of night they were outside. They dressed up like our allies and blew themselves up, when they weren’t murdering the families of our actual allies and throwing their headless bodies into the Tigris. Write a five paragraph essay on that. Or write about how we’ve lost more soldiers to suicide than to combat. Your choice. Make sure each paragraph has a topic sentence.

The Outlaw Academy, because being lawful means allowing their reality to become your reality, and their reality includes you pledging your allegiance to their republic before you’re old enough to wipe your own ass. School is a photocopy of life. It’s a combination of Office Space and the eye of Sauran. It primes you for reliance. It has the illusion of a beginning, middle, and end, and the illusion of progress, but then you wake up and realize there is no moral. “Education”, if such a thing even exists. I just call it life. There are tears, laughter, regret, love, and patience. There’s empathy and apathy. There’s living and dying. If you’re going to give a single person a single grade for that, you might as well fail me. I’m not playing and I’m done talking about it.

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