“But why can’t I go?” I would ask.
The insult would always come, “Some of the students will misbehave. We can’t let you all go.”
Gym would get out some five minutes before the end of school, and we would all stand around dumbly for the day’s final bell to toll. That sound would have an effect like a starting pistol. At the mark the whole school would rush to their lockers and then scramble off to the waiting busses.
Reasonably, many of us would have liked to avoid this hustle and bustle, and thought this stationary five minutes better put to use. Unfortunately, around five or ten students would, if left unmonitored for a single moment, raise Hell.
A few grades below this one, in another school, there had been a beautiful solution. A program was initiated that allowed students to prove their merit. All in all, if your teacher accepted your application, then you were given something like an all-purpose pass.
Back then, had there been a situation like this vestigial five minutes after gym, then anyone with such a pass would be dismissed. We were taught to take pride in our ability to self-manage, and to admire the freedom we could win by responsible behavior. The whole pride thing seemed rather stupid to me at the time, but the freedom sounded so sweet. And indeed, it was.
But moving up the grades, I found that beautiful individuality, this ability to distinguish yourself by merit, smothered. A single student, or set of students, was never punished; rather, the class as a whole would suffer. Think of that: having done no wrong, you are sent to mass detention due to those same five or ten students I mentioned earlier.
On top of all this, your grade was very often the result of another’s work. This was accomplished through group projects. So, not even in academics were you given the ability to see the fruit of your labor, for your labor was averaged with another’s sloth.
Fairness then means that everyone is treated at the lowest level. The lowest level I can recall was a group of boys chasing after a girl while shouting about raping her. You can imagine the treatment we received was poor. To be fair to the school, these boys did receive a stern lecture lasting around thirty seconds.
And so I asked, why can’t I—the individual—go forth and prove myself; why can I not demonstrate that I can quietly get my books from my locker and board the bus without engaging in some foolish nonsense like pulling the fire alarm?
They said there was no such thing as the individual, and tried to hammer collectivism into our heads for four years. In retrospect, I have begun to wonder whether those students raising Hell were really the problem. Oppression drives people insane (Ecclesiastes 7:7.)
I don’t know if this song has anything to do with what I’ve been talking about, but it played around in my head while I was writing this.