How do kids “survive” school?

I received an email from an ex-student who moved to a large city in another state for his freshman year of high school. A brilliant kid who was an absolute joy to have in class. I will always remember the presentation he did comparing and contrasting the different eras of music, playing samples of each on his flute. I have been thinking for a while about what kind of introduction or conclusion I could add to his letter below, but I think any of my words would just detract from the power of his. Full disclosure here—the letter is heavily edited. I did not change any of his words, but I did omit any sentence about me and parts about his band experience. I did get his permission to re-print the letter on Blogush.

Here is what we are doing to the cream of the “creative class:”

…education is very different here, and I felt something wrong in the classroom when I got here. It’s is seriously, and I am not exagerating, like CMT(CT Mastery Tests) day everyday here…the teachers, I don’t know how to explain it. They are not human, nothing is human. The tests, I do not even want to get into. They are Scantron, in other words, ALL bubble in because, and I quote a teacher, the teachers simply do not feel like grading papers. I have yet to write an essay here, or really write anything. Everything is multiple choice which just takes out the human in teachers I think. Well, I think that’s enough of bashing teachers…I am doing so much reading as I don’t read enough in school hahaha. I just finished Animal Farm which I loved. Such a great book. I also re-read 1984 and I found a lot of new stuff in it I hadn’t seen before. Last week I bought Fahrenheit 451 which was grand. See, the way novel reading goes at this school is they give us the book, they play a tape which reads us the book and that’s all. The teacher simply watches us. I don’t know, maybe I am just a complaining teenager which is fine…

I want to write back something that gives him hope. This is a great mind that should not be wasting away in a classroom coloring in bubbles on a test. What do I say? Would you give him advice on how to keep his mind active by doing things outside of the school? or direct him to take action and attempt to change the current academic environment? What would you do?

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