It’s not easy writing about the insanity rampant in America’s
government schools. It’s a little overwhelming. It’s difficult to know
where to begin.
But I think the story of the 7th-grader in Ponder, Texas, is about as
good a place to start as any.
Christopher Beamon and his English class were asked by their teacher,
Amanda Henry, to write a Halloween essay — a work of fantasy, a
fictional short story. It was understood by teacher and class alike that
scary material would be incorporated into the writing exercise.
Beamon wrote a spooky one, all right.
It was enough to make the ghost of gangster-rapper Tupac Shakur turn
white. A school essay on getting high? Waiting for a drug connection?
Turning to inhaling deadly Freon gas as a stimulant when the drugs
didn’t show up? Then unloading a shotgun and a 9 mm on hapless students
and the very teacher who assigned the essay?
Yup. That’s about the size of it. But here’s where it gets
interesting. The teacher loved it. According to reports in the
and elsewhere, though later denied by school officials, Mrs. Henry gave
young Christopher a grade of “A” — 100 percent, perfectamundo, an ace.
He even got extra credit for reading the illiterate essay, chock full of
vulgarity and grammatical, usage and spelling errors to the entire
In other words, Beamon was honored for his work — until some of the
parents of students named as victims in the essay complained to
principal Chance Allen. Allen did what any red-blooded government
bureaucrat would do in such a situation — he called the cops. The next
thing you know, young Chris is arrested for his prize work and jailed in
a juvenile detention center for five days.
After reading Beamon’s essay, the following thoughts come to me:
- If anyone should be jailed in this case, it would be the
school officials who failed so miserably to teach this kid how to write.
- What’s amazing about the controversy over the essay is the
intolerance of fantasy violence — clearly mimicking the kind of stuff
this kid watches on MTV — and the apparent lack of concern by all with
the 7th-grader’s knowledge and preoccupation with getting high.
- None of this craziness took place in a major urban school
district where confusion and gun fears reign supreme. This all happened
in a farm town of about 500, 40 miles from Dallas.
- How can anyone, let alone a 13-year-old kid working on a school
assignment, be locked up for writing anything in the land of the First
- How can a school district reconcile giving a kid an “A” on an
assignment and then calling the cops on him for the same work?
- I tend to think of this kid as a victim of government schools.
But, at the same time, what scares me about him is not his knowledge of
weapons, but his hip-hop, urban beat, gangster self-image that I suspect
is all-too common among today’s young teens.
- What were the failing essays like?
I could go on and on. But this incident is not really as
unusual in its official absurdity as it seems. Every day now, there are
news reports of 7-year-olds being suspended for bringing nail clippers
to school, government officials trying to determine which kids might be
mass murderers through standardized tests, kids expelled for drawing
pictures of guns, etc.
It would be funny if it wasn’t so frightening. This is scarier than
any Halloween story I have ever heard. What has happened to our concept
of education? What has happened to our concept of civil rights? What has
happened to our concept of common sense?
The inmates are truly running this asylum. Government schools are not
only breeding illiteracy among students, they are obviously subsidizing
it among teachers and administrators.
Parents, if you don’t think your government school is just as
scandalous and shameful in its standards and values, you are living in a
But, having said all that, I better not tell you what I think should
be done with the government schools in this country. Otherwise, who
knows? I, too, might find myself “detained.”