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The Shrub Who Stole Learning

Publication Date: 2005-11-27

?Duh, Dude. Learning, and life, are not multiple choice.?



All the kids in TheRealWorld liked their schools very much.
But to the Shrub, who lived Elsewhere, they SUCKED.

The Shrub hated the schools! Every little last part!
Now, don?t ask ME where his issues took start.
It could be the schools didn?t make him much money.
It could be that English teachers all said he talked funny.
Quite possibly it was that learning is a thing hard to chart --
Or that the Shrub, quite frankly, was not very smart.

For whatever reason, because he was anal or banal,
or mean or just thick,
The Shrub was determined to come up with a trick,
to do in all the schools, to their very last brick.
?I MUST find some way to deep six those things, and quick!?

For out in the schools, all the Real girls and all the Real boys,
Would ask questions and learn, make messes and noise.
They?d think and they?d alter and change and they?d grow,
And soon, they?d apply the things that they?d know.

Perhaps they?d begin to read books and the news,
uncensored broadcasts or websites they?d choose,
and THEN,
THEN,
they?d do something the shrub just abhorred!

Every kid in TheReadWorld, the lost and the bored,
Would stand close together, and say one little word.

One after the other, with the camera bulbs flashing,
they?d start conversations that set the poor Shrub?s teeth gnashing,

?WHY?? they would say, again and again.
?And WHAT,
HOW MANY,
WHICH WHERE and WHEN??
They?d follow that up with a flurry of ?WHO?? which would flow into ?WHOSE??
And then disastrously,
catastrophly,
Shrub?s party would lose!.
Lose!,
Lose!,
Lose!,
LOSE!

Now, the Shrub was quite less than mentally stable
as he considered this scene and what it portended.
He sat with his Shrub-fingers drumming the table,
and imagined his powers to be soonly ended.


This cannot go on,? he said with a smirk,
?Soon they all will be critically thinking,?
?and THAT?s no condition under which I can work.?
And he growled and he frowned, his clarity shrinking.

Then he stole an idea!
An awful idea!
The Shrub stole a perfectly wonderful, AWFUL idea!

?I know just what we?ll do,? he declared with a jolt.
?I?ll call up some friends, at Harcourt, at Brace and at Holt.
I?ll pass out some contracts to Hill and McGraw,
I?ll call in some favors, and then? ? he crowed at his trick ---
?I?ll write me a LAW!
I?m so smart, it?s just SICK.?

So the Shrub made up some facts and some studies produced
and hired up some experts to discuss and deduce
that the schools were all crappy; this was very sad news,
and the only right thing, they rushed to explain,
was to test into oblivion every kid with a brain.

Yes! Away would go questions and the mess and the noise,
that comes with real learning, by real girls and boys,
away with the teaching, and laughter and play,
for it would be test prep that carried the day.

The Shrub visited schools for photos and press,
and at every op, he strived hard to express
That what really counted was not getting smart,
or growing and learning, or music, or art.
But ranking and grading and scoring and tests,
would determine who mattered, and to hell with the rest.

?It?s the wave of the future, and we?re riding the crest!
There?s nothing worthwhile that can?t be assessed!
We must stop education, and
TEST!
TEST!
TEST! TEST!?

Around the preschools Shrub slunk, and slyly proposed,
That what poor children really needed the most,
wasn?t a meal or a roof or clean and warm clothes,
or books they could hold, or grownups they trusted,
?That?s the OLD way of thinking, and it?s obviously busted. ?

Then with a wink to his cronies, the Shrub would proceed
to remove all the things that growing minds need.

He took the Block Corner! He took away Naps!
He took away Projects! He took away Snack!
He took Show and Tell! He took away Chess!
Field Trips and Story Time and Odyssey Quest!

Why, that Shrub even took the last five-minute recess!

?That ought to do it,? the Shrub said at last.
?I?ve removed all the substance from every last class.
I?ve managed quite well to keep the status quo safe,
I?ve left no child behind; they ALL know their place.
For children who are busy filling in bubbles
don?t have the time to be making much trouble.?

And as the Shrub stood, a smug happy look on his face,
A strange ? no ? miraculous ? thing began to take place.
A question was voiced, from deep in the crowd.
It started out low, and then it got loud.

?One last little holdout,? Shrub said, ?there had to be one.
Let?s let it go on ? a whiner might be fun.?
But it wasn?t a whine! It wasn?t a moan!
It wasn?t a whimper, or a sob or a groan,
No, the noise wasn?t sad!
Not at all; Not a whit! Not a tad!
Why, this voice wasn?t small! It was ripped! It was MAD!

For every kid in TheRealWorld, the quick and the slow,
understood in their hearts what the Shrub didn?t know --
that intellect and joy, once born can?t be quelled,
and freedom, once tasted, is a thing dearly held.

And the Shrub sat perplexed, with his head in the sand,
and in a voice that was vexed, said, ?I don?t understand.?

?They?re still asking questions! They still are aware!
They?re still asking why! They still want to know!
They?re still asking how! And by God, they STILL CARE!
They?re still asking who! How can that be so?
They learned despite grades! They learned despite scores!
They learned despite rankings and standards and scantrons,galore!?

And the Shrub thought of something, he hadn?t before.
Maybe learning?s not stoppable; maybe it?s more.

His Shrub-brow furrowed, as he heard from the voice,
?Duh, Dude. Learning, and life, are not multiple choice.?

?They?re messy, and screwy, and prone to regression,
and just like Democracy, full of hard questions.
And just like that system, they?re resilient and true
and just like Democracy, they?ll all outlive you.
They?re tough and they?re strong, hearty and hale,
and just like Democracy, they aren?t for sale.?

What happened then?
Well, in the legends they say ?
The Shrub?s education, began that day.


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