Learn or Burn

Why education really matters

Carla spends her days teaching those who are hardest to teach: the learning-disabled students. Modern life's glut of information isn't so much a factor there.

"I sometimes get a ninth grade student who can't read three-letter words. If he leaves at the end of the year reading at a third grade level, that might not seem like much of an accomplishment to some people, but that will probably make the difference between whether he's ever able to get a job or not. Other times, the effect you have on a student is more an emotional one, where you get a kid who flat-out is disinterested in everything, and you help him or her find something that matters."

How do people learn? It's different for every kid, she thinks, though there are some general rules. "It's easier to learn by doing things than by listening to somebody yammering at them for an hour, which makes it amazing how much lecturing is done in education. The other thing is that the students have to feel that what is being taught is meaningful and applicable to them. Their two most frequently asked questions are 'What does this have to do with me?' and 'Can I go spit?'"

Can I go spit?

"Spitting is really big. It's cross-cultural," she explains. "Maybe there's some physiological shift taking place in the human race. Boys can't go more than 10 or 15 minutes now without spitting. It wells up in them or something."

One final note on our ability to learn: We've heard so much about 9/11 in the past year that I've taken to abbreviating it to 20. It was, we were assured within hours of the horrific events, "the day that changed America forever." That's why you see so many people eating bugs on television.

What have we learned? Our nation has gone back to its gross-out reality shows and soap operas while accepting the simplistic baby talk our President has been spouting in every tough-talking speech he has made since he got done lying about why he was hiding in bunkers for so long after the danger was past. (Remember the White House's fabricated story about a "credible threat to Air Force One?") Evildoers attacked us, Bush has said hundreds of times now, because they hate our freedoms and the fact that we hold every life sacred.

Even the lives of the 1,500-plus innocent people we've killed in Afghanistan? How about the lives of the 1,000 Taliban prisoners of war we turned over to our new Afghan allies, who were found suffocated to death in storage containers. And hey, how about those people Saddam killed with biological weapons, it now turns out, with the knowledge and cooperation of the Reagan administration, back in the Iran/Iraq War? Did we hold all those lives sacred?

The terrorists who would bring us down are absolute shits, the worst of the worst. But we might have learned by now that it doesn't help our cause to be such big, fat hypocrites in the eyes of the world. Let's tally up the dead: at least 1,500 civilians killed by our bombs, plus 1,000 prisoners of war killed by suffocation is getting pretty near the total the terrorists racked up on Sept. 11. Where exactly is our regard for human life? What have we learned?

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