The kid was acting like an ass.
While it has been known to occur in high school hallways, particularly on hot spring days, especially near the end of the day, this young man was taking assery to a new level.
Then I saw the scar--an old, jagged line on his neck. My brain flipped back into pediatric mode--his head was small, and then I noticed the bulge behind his ear.
He clearly had a shunt--his brain's excess fluid now drains into his abdomen. I saw the preemie sitting in an isolette, fighting to survive. And he did.
Arguing with him about anything seemed silly now.
I smiled--he was momentarily confused, but then he smiled back.
School is an unkind place for those of us with bad brains. I doubt he will pass the HSPA, New Jersey's version of the NCLB test.
Let's call him Jason.
The tide rises, the tide falls.
I live near tidal water. Millions of people do around here. Few feel the tides. Few see the moon's phases. You can get a high school diploma without knowing why either happens, but you better know a little something about algebra.
Jason will not learn algebra. We might be able to get him to memorize an algorithm he doesn't understand in order to get lucky on a few questions on the math part of the state test, but he'll no more use algebra than I'll use a polo mallet.
He can watch the tide rise, fall, then rise again. He can watch the rising water erase his footprints leading to the stone jetty where he sits.
He can see the sea slaters scoot along the rocks. He can watch the barnacles open up as the new tide rewards their faith in stasis. A seagull drops a full oyster onto the jetty a few yards away, until the oyster's shell cracks.
Here he is not judged. Here he is not stupid.
A ventriculo-peritoneal (VP) shunt is a tube place into the ventricles of the brain to allow excess cerebrospinal fluid to drain off into the belly. The ventricles are deep--the tube must pass through brain tissue to get there.
The benefits of the surgery generally outweigh the risks, but the fact remains that Jason has had a tube shoved into his brain, a tube that runs down his neck into his belly.
Many children with VP shunts can pass the HSPA, many cannot. That is not the same thing as saying that many will not.
Some cannot pass the test, no matter how man cartwheels I might do in the classroom.
My former pastor once mentioned in a sermon that our ability to read and write makes us more, well, human.
Last thing I need is another pissing match with a pastor, but the corollary is that the less literate among us are missing something. Maybe they are.
How much are we missing because of our literacy? How many of us can see beyond titles and deeds? How many of us spent today chasing symbols, rearranging them, analyzing them, fixing them for a boss, or sweetening them for a lover, or changing truths so they fit more smugly into our internal worlds?
How many of us sat on a jetty today watching the tide rise, then fall, then rise again?
Would it have been a waste of time if you had?
The VP shunt diagram was lifted from the Schneider Children's Hospital website here.