There are moments at the beginning of every year when I wish that I could just sit down with parents and walk them through the harrowing process that is known as Elementary Education in the state of Oklahoma. But every year I put a smile on my face and walk them through the future that I hope we can create for their children, despite all the systemic obstacles standing in their way. My hopes for a better future wage war against an enemy too monolithic to fully describe. The following is a letter written by the System regarding the future that it has planned for our children. It is only a very small snapshot of a much larger network of systemic forces working together to destroy our children’s future.
Dear Family of _________,
Welcome to American Dream Elementary! We are honored to incorporate your child into our data. Today, we partner with you in the challenging process of permanently institutionalizing your child for the rest of its life! We understand that you have many fears and worries. Rest assured, your child is in good hands.
Your child’s journey begins in kindergarten. At this stage, we train your child to conform its behavior to the limitations of an institutional setting. It will learn to walk in straight lines, sit still, remain silent, raise a hand, endure boredom, withstand bullying, and throw away food that it was never given enough time to eat.
During this year, we have the pleasure of formally introducing your child to mandatory, multiple-choice, computer-based testing. Children take the test three times a year, receive limited instructions, and enjoy absolutely no support while taking it. Many five-year-old children take as long as an hour to complete the test, break down and cry mid-way, or simply give up and press buttons at random. We have found this type of testing to be an excellent introduction to formalized failure for most of our students. Breaking your child’s will to succeed must necessarily begin as early as possible.
As a result of this testing, your child will soon be identified as insufficient under the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA), most likely by the beginning of First Grade. What is the RSA, you ask? This wonderful piece of legislation is exactly what its name implies, an act. The RSA promises more services for your struggling child. So we create a document filled with fake supports to make it seem like your child is receiving additional benefits. You sign the form, and voila, we have a paper trail to prove that your child is receiving help under the RSA!
Naysayers criticize our actions as not keeping with the spirit of the law. But nothing could be further from the truth. Our brilliant state legislators never funded the RSA in the first place precisely because it was never intended to provide actual services. It simply creates a file cabinet of paperwork to track your child’s failure. When your child finally drops out, the blame will rest squarely on its own two shoulders. We want your child to receive credit for all of its academic accomplishments!
As your child moves into the Second Grade, be careful that it doesn’t become too good at failing. If this happens, your child may be in danger of receiving an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which could present a significant barrier to your child’s future institutional status. Thankfully, we have undertaken significant measures to undermine the IEP process to such an extent that your child will find it next to impossible to qualify. We mire the process with so much paperwork, so many administrative obstacles, and so much bureaucracy, that most children go through an entire academic year without ever being evaluated. Once your child begins the next year with a completely new teacher, the process starts all over again!
And even if your child does, against all odds, qualify for an IEP, American Dream is thoroughly equipped to implement your child’s plan as ineffectively as possible. Thanks to our wonderful state legislators, who have been defunding public education for quite some time, our departments are understaffed, our classrooms overcrowded, our SPED teachers drowning in useless paperwork, and our regular education teachers unable to meet the demands of our increasingly unrealistic requirements. As a result, your child’s IEP will never be anything more than just a plan. American Dream is quite proficient at expertly planning all of the things we will never do.
I should also add that there was once a time when teachers posed a significant threat to your child’s institutionalization. But we have remedied this issue by reducing their pay, increasing the impossibly large number of children within their care, tying their evaluations to test scores (thereby raising their stress and anxiety), increasing the number of tests they must prepare their students to take, and mandating such a large number of conflicting requirements that most teachers are unable to teach at all anymore! Of course, this has been our goal for quite some time. The title “teacher” is nothing more than a cover. Teachers are simply hired to supervise wards of the state. You know this, and we know this, but it is a challenging situation indeed when teachers don’t know this! At American Dream, we make sure that teachers learn to accept this position or quit.
By the time Third Grade rolls around, your child will be sufficiently poised for retention. Remember the RSA? Here’s where that file cabinet of paperwork comes in handy! Unless your child passes the reading test in Third Grade, they will be automatically retained under the RSA. Retention marks the first major victory in our mission to permanently institutionalize your child. If we play our cards right, we can retain your child in the same grade for up to three academic years. Some of our students, for example, enter Fourth Grade as old as the age of thirteen!
We help our students internalize the importance of test scores as early as possible. Thus, when our students fail, the failure hits them especially hard. For instance, when your child takes the reading test in Third Grade, we will make sure it knows that its entire future hangs in the balance (to an eight-year-old child, entering Fourth Grade really is its entire future, as far as it’s concerned!). We find such tactics allow our students to develop high levels of anxiety and low self-esteem at a very young age. Many of our Third Grade students become so overwhelmed by the pressure that they simply give up altogether!
Over time, the worrisome excitement that your child currently exudes over learning will be replaced by a dull apathy. As Fourth Grade turns into Fifth Grade, we will continue to build upon this indifference by punishing your child for anything and everything it does. We start this process in kindergarten, by requiring your child to comply with developmentally inappropriate requests, such as sitting still for as long as 45 minutes to an hour at a time. When your child is unable to comply and throws a fit, we promptly dole out the punishments, thereby strengthening your child’s frustration.
We have also thoroughly trained our staff in the skills of escalation. If your child talks in the hall, we will turn it into a shouting match. If your child is one of many who are misbehaving, we will single out only your child for punishment. If your child is following directions, then we’ll simply punish the entire classroom. At American Dream, your child will never fall through the cracks.
Put simply, the timing has never been better for your child to enroll at American Dream Elementary. Suspensions are climbing through the roof, teachers have fewer and fewer supplies to go around, and our Third Grade is busting at the seams due to the exceptionally high number of automatic retentions. You’ll even notice that we closely reflect national incarceration rates — African American students receive over 60 percent of our discipline referrals, even though they only make up a fraction of the student body!
Once your child graduates from our jailschoolhouse, it’s only a matter of time before it drops out, either in middle school or high school. American Dream prides itself with an excellent track record of dropouts and early referrals to juvenile detention facilities. After this, incarceration is only a short ride away, ensuring your child’s permanent institutional status for the rest of its life.