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Posted by Luke July 27, 2013


The following is my response to the questions I got from principal Jim Sporleder on my article about why I left school.

Luke, I am trying to figure out…..did your parents beat you because they expected more from you? In school? Is it part of the culture that kids succeed in school? That is a ton of stress for a child to be burdened with. My kids at Lincoln can’t concentrate when things get physical or crazy at home. I have to deal with the opposite challenge…my students’ parents are barriers to their education. The parents that are abusive, do so because of their own addictions, mental health issues, and not wanting to see their kids succeed…for some reason they see this as their son or daughter trying to be better than them.

I don't know, because I am not my parents. Every abusive parent has excuses they hide behind - "it's for your own good, we were trying to push you to do better, that was how we were raised" etc. My mom and dad abusing me could be due to all the reasons you listed, or none of them. Truthfully, it doesn't matter to me because anyone who hits their child first is wrong, and no petty reasoning changes that, so I don't care why they did it.

Tough question Luke….Did you turn away from school because it was the one thing that you could control? I ask that sincerely.

Tough answer: it was the one thing I could control which didn't involve hurting anyone else. Before I go on, take everything I'm about to say in a hypothetical manner, or else you'll be scared. Technically, everyone and everything in my reality is under my control. You see, if I didn't like the way my parents treated me, I could have hurt them physically. Had I disapproved of how schools are run, I could have blown them up like a typical school shooter. Instead, I took the path that required the least decadence. The only control that was ever in question was my moral self-control, and I believe the right choice was made.

It’s sad, but adults get frustrated if they lose control of the situation and therefore judge, instead of approaching an issue non-judgmentally, and seeking the cause of your feelings….not reacting to what you were saying. I wonder if you were treated respectfully…even if you were labeling him at the time, would that have changed anything?

I blew up because he labelled me before I spoke. Had he not judged me preemptively, I would have spoken to him the way I speak to you, and the conversation would have been a lot less heated.

You are absolutely correct……if you don’t have your education, you are judged and people will draw their own conclusions. My kids get labeled, and my encouragement is to show those who are judging, that I have great kids with great ability. Therefore, when we are able to get our students to graduation, it gives them a sense of accomplishment and it shows the naysayers…they were wrong.

What you mean is, "if you don’t have schooling, you are judged and people will draw their own conclusions." I'm sure it's obvious to anyone who reads my writing that I am educated, whether they admit it or not. It's important to differentiate between school and education, and in my perfect society, everyone would be able to make this distinction. In my dream, that's the first thing schools would say to kids every year: "don't fret if school doesn't work for you. It's not an indication of your overall potential." In reality, society believes the success and talent of kids are due to their schooling and upbringing, while their failures are their own fault. To feel accomplished by graduating from the current system would mean playing by those beliefs, to feel success at graduation and failure otherwise. While your school's graduates feel good about themselves, the millions out there who didn't graduate are still scrutinized. Like I said in the past, I respect what you do for your students. However, until our society's views on unschoolers/dropouts changes, nothing is fixed on a grander scale. To put it simply, I don't want schools to have no dropouts - I want dropouts to be treated with equal respect until they have a reason to be disrespected. Otherwise, it would be like fighting racism by making everyone the same color, and no lesson on tolerance is to be gained.

I can really feel your anger with the school system and those in society that you feel are judging you without knowing you. I’m wondering why every teacher is describe the same way, very authoritarian and punitive?

In general, many view teachers as "authoritarian" because they willingly choose to work within schools that rely on control. Even if their intentions are good, teachers make money off a system which drugs kids and destroys self-esteem. Personally, the fact that I praised you in my previous article shows that I don't think all school staff are authoritarian. I just didn't feel the need to state in my writing, "there are some teachers out there who aren't bad," because most people already know this. The good teachers are just so few that I didn't think it changed my points by mentioning them. P.S. Two teachers I like are John Taylor Gatto and Brett Veinotte - very educational for anyone who has time to check out their work.

I’m fighting so hard for kids that the state forced into dropout over one state math test. They had all their credit and met all other requirements, and right before they touch the ribbon at the finish line, we pluck the diplomas out of their hands. How can I help 4,200 kids know that they are not failures, they have gifts and talents that were not considered, and let them know I want them to feel valued and acknowledge their self-worth?

Honestly, I don't know, because for every school like Lincoln High that tries to improve, a hundred others become more oppressive every year. Likewise, for every authority figure like you who tries to help these kids, dozens more will put them down. It is a losing battle, but keep on fighting, because that's all we can do for now.

I fight everyday through social media, and I have not put a dent into the injustice.

This is because school's injustices are not through social media, but ingrained in society itself, where most people don't spend time online the way we do. Maybe if you, a principal, were to go and debate with others (online and in person), they might not ignore you because we've been conditioned to pay attention to authority. I've noticed people casting my opinions aside because I'm not a product of their system - they can't do that to you.

I can’t stop fighting because of the conscious decision our policy makers made to allow these kids to be denied…when they knew that there was inequity all over the state. Not every student received equal opportunity, and no one in power stood up and said, “this is wrong”!!

Most of the people in power value just that: power. School is currently giving them all the power they need, therefore they have no reason to change.

I would like to get your feedback on my fight and advocacy. If I do nothing, then I am sending the message that they are lazy, failures, had every chance to meet the standard and didn’t take it seriously, on and on.

I think you have the right idea, and what you do is better than nothing. I have never seen another principal with your viewpoints and willingness to learn, so keep at it.

It’s interesting to see us both wanting justice, but we are fighting two different fronts. What’s your take on all of this? I’m fighting that they get what they earned, without a high school diploma in the states; these kids have been rejected and abandoned. We have banned them from the gate of opportunity and shut the door. In the US, a dropout only has a chance to apply for 10% of jobs, 90% won’t interview without a high school diploma. Politicians are spinning that these kids brought it on themselves, and I am saying that we failed bright capable kids that have a lot to offer and now have been rejected.

Our temperaments may be different, but I think we're wanting the same thing: children who did not fit school's 'one-size-fits-all' mold should not be shunned by society. They should be given a chance to succeed or fail their own way. Schools should be more lenient, parents less abusive, and society more open-minded. If we can agree on these points, then any differences we have are arbitrary.

In the end, I appreciate all the time you've spent pondering my words. It's a nice change from being ignored by people within the school system, so for that I thank you.

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Respect | Empathy
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Emotional Literacy
Invalidation | Hugs
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