Close Calls In The World of Education

The Boy, when he was small (around 2-3 years old), had what the normal (so-called) “stranger anxiety” of toddlers. You know, you go up to a little kid, or just smile and wave at him, and he hides behind his parent’s legs or something.

The Boy, however, had a different response. He would start to get scared, as kids do. But then, he would twist his face up into the cutest snarl and growl at the person. He sometimes then would follow up with a question like, “Are you a good guy or a bad guy?”

The salient point of this story isn’t so much that The Boy was (and remains) an unusual individual, but more this: About one-third of the adults he did this to were frightened or unnerved by it. I can sort of see people being unnerved by the good guy/bad guy question, since a lot of good people wonder that sometimes, and toddlers have no social inhibitions keeping them from leveling that sort of question very forcefully.

But one of his first teachers was scared by him (and subsequently of him), and tried very hard to convince us that he was autistic. Having considerable experience with brain-injured children, we weren’t impressed by this trained professional’s opinion.

Despite this rather weird start, The Boy actually went through the rest of his traditional academic career beloved by his teachers. He’d come home with gifts all the time and we’d ask him if everyone got [whatever it was he had] and he’s say, “No, just me.” And we’d find out later that was true.

His traditional academic career ended when I realized he was somehow bluffing his way through tests. He was sufficiently charming to talk to and it sounded like he was answering the question, and it wasn’t until I started grilling him on his multiplication tables that I was sure the B.S. meter was pinned to the right.

Now he’s doing pre-algebra, which isn’t bad for 7th grader. And he’s genuinely informed about history, as well. (To torture him I can make him watch The Patriot and Troy.) But he could have easily gone through school without learning a thing.

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