My son Nathan came to me and admitted he had been slacking on his homework. One of his high school teachers never read his assignments and after a while Nate caught on and decided to test her. He stopped doing the assignments and instead began writing about his fictitious pet, Stampy The Elephant. For over two years he never once completed a home assignment, and the teacher never caught on.
Nathan is no fool and recognized he would have to be subtle, tell no one, and give every appearance of doing his assignment. Without a doubt he spent more time endeavoring to evade this work than he ever would have spent doing the assignment. He was careful to include the name of the assignment in the first line. The assignments looked unremarkable and Stampy’s name did not usually appear in the first few lines.
Here are a few examples of sentences in actual assignments he turned in:
writing on World War One:
World War One was really cool because me and Stampy played in the rain, it was a weird day.
on the sociological effect the war had on Canadian cities:
World War One wasn’t in Montreal because that’s where me and Stampy were.
People like to walk, because that’s what me and Stampy do. I hate Charlie (a classmate looking on) because she says mean things to me right now. She probably doesn’t even like Stampy The Elephant.
on rampant consumerism and the effect on Canadian culture:
I’m going to buy a nice car. I think that would be very exciting. Canada has many problems that could be solved if Stampy and i had a nice car.
Looking back, and talking to Nathan some time later, I have come to realize that Nate was learning important lessons about life. That teacher taught him several things that she wasn’t aware of. She taught him that effort doesn’t matter because it is all about looking good. Nathan learned that teachers are lazy and easily manipulated. When he told me about it I knew as a good parent that I should force him to do his best even if no one is looking. As a parent I wanted to encourage him to do his best, take his education seriously, and strive for excellence.Part of me wanted to challenge him to be a young man of integrity regardless of who noticed. But part of me wanted to see how long he could get away with it.
To this day he has a low opinion about teachers, in spite of the fact that he is training to be one very soon. I will often hear remarks about how little they work, how they don’t really care, how they are not the brightest. Of course most teachers are hardworking, dedicated and committed; and I have sought to correct any misconceptions. It is hard, however, to argue with the elephant in the room.
“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”
― Albert Schweitzer
“We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.”
― Stephen King