He Ran.

March 06 2013

The United States loves its stan­dard­ized tests, and when I was in the 8th grade, I had to take (and pass) the LEAP test to get into high school. 

Because of the incred­i­ble stress of the test, the entire 8th grade year, in every class, the teach­ers pre­pared us for the Spring when we took the exams all day for about a week.

In my Louisiana His­tory class, we were asked to keep a jour­nal of a daily ques­tion as part of this LEAP prepa­ra­tion. The teacher would write a ques­tion on the board, like What is the Eman­ci­pa­tion Procla­ma­tion?”, and we’d write the answer, giving as much detail as we were able. This jour­nal was then col­lected, graded, and given back to stu­dents with cor­rect answers.

I walked into class one morn­ing and saw the ques­tion on the white-board. 

Write a com­plete sen­tence.”

What? Are you kid­ding me? Just, Write a com­plete sen­tence.”?

Was she mock­ing us? At least when I was told to write about the Eman­ci­pa­tion Procla­ma­tion, I could expand on the Civil War or per­haps the Civil Rights Move­ment, but this simple task was no more chal­leng­ing to Koko the gorilla than it was to a pimple-faced teenager. Did she not think we, as 13 year old stu­dents, could create a solid sen­tence con­structed, in its most simple form, of a sub­ject and a pred­i­cate? This chal­lenge” was noth­ing more than a waste of my time, and yet I had to comply or suffer a less than per­fect grade. 

Out of frus­tra­tion with the ongo­ing prepa­ra­tion, and school in gen­eral, I decided to protest. While other kids wrote com­plex, thought­ful sen­tences, akin to a 140 char­ac­ter tweet, my response to this dare was simply He ran.”

The two-word com­plete sen­tence became my weapon of choice. I closed my jour­nal, and they were col­lected what seemed like hours later. The next day I received the jour­nal. I quickly thumbed to the page where my subtle boy­cott stood — the short­est sen­tence I could muster in a fit of 8th grade edu­ca­tional rage.

And there, next to my scrib­bling, was the mark and my teacher’s reply. A big, red X. 

Whaaaaa…?

Surely, she was joking, but upon fur­ther inspec­tion, it was clear she was not. Her cor­rect­ing response, writ­ten in the same burn­ing red ink, meant to spark some form of heav­enly inspi­ra­tion, was simply Where?”

I wrote He ran.” And appar­ently it was wrong because I didn’t say where he ran.

I won’t for­give myself for what hap­pened next. I didn’t explode at my teacher; I didn’t flip my desk; I didn’t even ask for clar­i­fi­ca­tion.

What did I do? Noth­ing.

Don’t get me wrong, I com­plained to my par­ents and my friends who all assured me my answer was cor­rect, but I never con­fronted my teacher about it. I never brought it up again after that week and I silently com­pleted all assign­ments and daily ques­tions from that day for­ward.

I passed the LEAP with no prob­lem and went on to grad­u­ate from high school with honors. I grad­u­ated col­lege and have worked with fan­tas­tic people, clients, and com­pa­nies since then. My edu­ca­tional expe­ri­ence cer­tainly didn’t hinge on those daily chal­lenges writ­ten on that board in the 8th grade.

How­ever, it did impact me. That day I was told I was wrong when I was not. The person in author­ity shouted No!” with incom­plete knowl­edge, and I didn’t chal­lenge the deci­sion. I com­plained, yes, but there was no action to follow it up.

Where did he run? Away from con­flict, afraid of the con­se­quences.