Part Three in a Continuing Series
The school I attended from Fourth through Sixth Grade segregated the kids into three classes: High Aptitude, Medium Aptitude, Low Aptitude. Of course my buddies and I had our own names for these three ‘Classes’: “Smart Kids” (us), “Dumb Kids”, and “Really Dumb Kids.” There was absolutely no socialization between the three classes. None. Ever. I cannot imagine California (or any other state school board) using this practice now.
Once initially ‘placed’ into your category, there was virtually no way to make a move (in either direction). But during the second half of my Fifth Grade year, I took a real running stab at getting ‘demoted’ from ‘Smart’ to ‘Dumb’ Classification. I have always been easily distracted. One day during Mathematics Class, the teacher showed us a trick I found fascinating. He taught us we could make a curved line out of a bunch of straight lines. This was a revelation to me.
For the next several weeks, I spent all my time in classrooms experimenting with this new found ‘miracle’. I created countless drawings, some very colorful, some just black on white. The possibilities seemed endless. Of course my school work suffered in direct proportion to my budding creative talent. I quit doing my homework or even participating in class. I attribute this to my addictive personality. I was addicted to making curved lines out of straight. Nothing else was as much fun, especially while in class. Strangely enough, it really wasn’t fun at all as soon as I got home from school in the afternoons.
When the report cards came out, I discovered to my horror: all C’s save one class: a ‘D’ in that one! I was in deep shit. I knew I was gonna catch hell at home, but I wasn’t too concerned about that, not really. But when I got called into the School Counselor’s Office, a sudden fear came upon me. For moral support, I fetched along one of my best school buddies, Mike Small. He wasn’t allowed to sit with me during my counseling, so I parked him outside the office while I went in to greet my fate.
The office seemed to me very large as I slumped down in the single chair in front of the Counselor’s large desk. Suddenly I felt very small and vulnerable. And doomed.
“Mister Marcom,” be began solemnly, “Do you know why you are here today?”
“Nope,” I lied. (In California, ‘Nope’ and ‘Yeah’ were perfectly acceptable responses to these types of inquiries. Kids did not say “No Sir,” or “No Ma’am.” It wasn’t until I got back to Texas Schools that I learned, the hard way, to mend my speech.)
He studied some papers on his desk for a moment. “I’m afraid we are going to have to put you into the Medium Aptitude classification next year.”
“No!” I blurted out. “You can’t do that to me! I’ll lose all my friends!” I was near to tears.
“Whatever do you mean? You will still be in the same school.”
“This idiot really has not a clue how things work around here” I realized, trying to think of some way out of this before he dismissed me.
“Look,” I began pleading, “I just had a bad few weeks. I can do better.”
He looked through his papers again and said as he flipped through the little stack, “Well Mister Marcom, I do see that you have up until now, maintained reasonably good grades. Not great, but good.”
As he studied my ‘dossier’, I felt my heart racing. After what seemed to me an unusually cruel amount of time, he looked up and said, “Mister Marcom, I will allow you to start Sixth Grade in the same classification you are in now but, consider this probation. I will be talking to your teachers two weeks after the school year begins and if just one of them has a bad report on your performance, you will be transferred to the Medium Aptitude Classes for your own good. You may go now.”
He didn’t have to tell me twice. I hauled ass before he could reconsider. Having regained some of my composure, I returned to my cocky self just in time to answer the question I saw in Mike’s eyes before he could even phrase it:
“Piece of cake,” I said. “Let’s get the hell outta here.”