This poem was inspired by a teenager who never did homework and often distracted the other students while he avoided doing the class work—he was a want-to-be comedian, who seldom made it through class without being sent to the office. Most teachers eventually struggle with one or more adult children like him, because they are biological adults. They are only children because the law says so.
There was no warning.
“What’s it like to have sex with an Elephant?” the adolescent asked.
He didn’t even raise his hand.
That’s what the want-to-be elephant fornicator said In an English class with thirty-four silent, stunned expressions.
His face was pale and bloated,
Old and mindless
But very much in charge of chaos.
What’s a teacher to do
While teaching the use of commas?
Was an hour’s work
Writing the referral followed
By after school phone calls
Sherlock style to find the illusive mother,
Who said, “My son has no problems
With his other teachers
So what are you doing wrong?
He said you’re mean to him!”
When I called the want-to-be elephant fornicator’s
Other teachers and read the comments
In the permanent file,
The truth reveled itself
Like a colorful, crazy Picasso painting.
The want-to-be elephant fornicator was in trouble in every class.
The mother lied,
the fabricating caregiver
who rocked his cradle.
Since I was so mean to the this teenager
Administration moved the want-to-be elephant fornicator
To another class where he terrorized that teacher
While basking in the laughter of his peers
With this want-to-be ‘elephant fornicator’
It was a game
Called musical classrooms.
It wouldn’t surprise me if
One day he hosted the Tonight Show or was elected to Congress.
If I could have found an elephant for this loony Kafkaesque comedian, I would have. He must be thirty now, and I wonder what he has done with his life. Is he in prison for shooting up an elementary school, or is he the CEO of a billion dollar corporation funding the war against America’s public schools, or is he homeless?
Does it matter?
In today’s corporate war against the democratic, transparent, non-profit public schools in the United States—a country with the highest childhood poverty rate in the developed world—there are children just like this boy taking those annual standardized tests that are being used across the country to rank-and-fire teachers and close public schools so the corporate reformers can open opaque, for-profit, not-democratic, corporate Charters often riddled with fraud and mostly worse or equal to the public schools they are replacing.
In addition, consider this: The Washington Post reported, Major charter researcher causes stir with comments about market-based school reform. And from Business Insider, 4 Reasons Finland’s Schools are Better:
- Finnish students only take one standardized test during their entire primary and secondary schooling (k-12), and it’s not a mandatory test used to rank teachers and close public schools.
- More time for play. Finnish students spend 2.8 hours a week on homework. This contrasts noticeably from the 6.1 hours American students spend per week—that is if the American students are doing the homework. For instance, many of the children I taught for thirty years in the poverty-plagued public schools where I worked seldom if ever did the homework that was assigned. Too many also didn’t do much classwork. But today, the corporate reformers would blame me for what those children, like the boy in my poem, refused to do.
- College is free. In Finland, not only are bachelor degree programs completely free of tuition fees, so are master and doctoral programs. This contrasts greatly with the US, where the average student loan debt now approaches $30,000, and the total student debt is more than $1 Trillion. Who profits from this?
- In Finland, public school teachers are treated like professors at universities, and they teach fewer hours during the day than US teachers, with more time devoted to lesson planning. They also get paid slightly more in Finland. The average teacher in the US makes about $41,000 a year, compared to $43,000 in Finland. And while teachers in the US make less money than many other countries, the OECD found that they work the longest hours of all.
You see, corporate education reform in the United States is all about making money—PROFIT comes first—and has nothing to do with improving education or dealing with children who think out loud in a classroom about having sex with elephants, and this explains why the Chicago Tribune reported Expulsion rate higher at charter schools. In fact, those expulsion rates are more than TWELVE times higher than the public schools.
Where do you think those children go when they are kicked out of a profit-motivated corporate charter school—to prison or back to a public school or maybe both? After all, the United States has the largest prison population in the world and even Communist China, with more than four times the population, is in a distant second place. The U.S. has almost 700 people locked up for every 100,000 compared to 119 per 100,000 in China—that the U.S. media constantly reminds us is a totalitarian state that limits the freedom of its people, without mentioning that China isn’t throwing that many of its people in prison compared to the United States. – Prison Studies.org
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).
Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).
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