Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Stitch in Time

I was evaluating essays at a local college for placement in writing classes. One student wrote:

Guns are everywhere. Everyone has a gun. I have a gun.
I went to my supervisor, gave him the paper, and told him whatever he decided to do, I would not teach that student. I don't know what he did, but I never saw that student again.

I thought of that as I was listening to NPR, and they mentioned an English teacher who was alarmed by the writing of the young man who killed all those people in Virginia. First, apparently, he killed two people. He didn't begin the actual massacre for another two hours.

So what were they waiting for? Did they think that was that? Now, they say they were following a false lead, but that doesn't seem nearly sufficient.

Acquaintances, roommates and former professors described Cho as a young man so disturbed that dozens of students had avoided attending classes with him; that one professor had warned the campus authorities about him and in turn had been offered protection; and that another had threatened to quit unless he was removed from her class. Several students said they had been saddened but not surprised to learn that he was the killer.

So disturbed they avoided attending classes with him? It seems as though this young man was leaving red flags everywhere he treaded.

(Professor) Giovanni said Cho's behavior had been unnerving and that at one point it caused all but seven of her 70 students to shun class. She eventually told school officials that if they did not remove him from the class, she would quit.

But Cho's behavior, officials said Wednesday, simply had not risen to the level at which they could begin expulsion procedures or take other action.

It seems to take a disaster to bring substantive change. It makes me wonder what it will take before Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein drop their voodoo reforms. When are they going to bite the bullet and insist on good teachers, reasonably-sized classes, and decent facilities for the 1.1 million kids who attend public schools? How many years of mediocre performance and smokescreens will NYC residents accept, and what sort of disaster would it take to get Mayor Mike to do the right thing?

And what sort of disaster would it take before they stopped cramming kids into schools like sardines? My school has grown to 250+% capacity under the guidance of this mayor. God help us if there's a fire.

But that, apparently, is what it would take to make people stand up and take notice.
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