Half way through the current school year, the Amity public school system moved the 9th grade up from the junior to the senior high school. In order to adjust the freshmen to their new climate, the senior high provided “link crews” – pairs of Amity students who would speak to the freshmen about the experience awaiting them, and give them various ‘transition’ games to play and activities to do.
My brother (a freshman, as it turns out) rummaged through his backpack the other day and found a little packet from his “link crew” experience earlier this year. It’s an assignment: each freshman will write a letter to himself to be opened on graduation (“Look at the blank sheet of paper in front of you now. That sheet is like your life…”). The second page of this packet is a handy-dandy example letter, which includes lines like “I’ll bet I’m still friends with Corey” and “I swear that I will at least try to go to the prom with J.G.” The freshmen apparently spent about an hour preparing for and writing this letter.
After the letter writing was done (a pointless, though not a damaging assignment) the link-crews went on to discuss a statement that had been written on the board: “You’re not better than anyone, but no one is better than you.”
How about that! We’re all the same (and we’re all special, too). We’re all equal – because, after all, they say we are.
Of course, just saying that you’re not better than anybody and no one’s better than you doesn’t make it so. It doesn’t even make anyone believe it. Nobody in this school, not the people writing this stuff on the board, not the roomfuls of freshmen reading it – not even the administrators who thought this line up in the first place – could possibly believe it. And yet, someone seems to think that this is important enough to “teach.”
What do they mean when they say that you’re not “better” than anybody else? They can’t possibly mean that we’re all of equal intelligence, or there would be no point in having honors-level classes. They can’t possibly mean that we’re all equally good at sports, or there wouldn’t be a school record in sprinting. Do we all have the same writing skills? The same musical talent? Perhaps they mean that if you were to award points for relative goodness in each field, everyone would have the same number of points, total (I’ve seen this sort of thing suggested in a psychology text book). But this is silly, unless you claim that someone who has been awarded high points for hamburger-flipping skill is really of the same caliber as a student who wins the regional computer-programming championships.
In the final analysis, the word “better” as used by our school in this exercise has no meaning. It’s just another one of the ways our school likes to distribute liberal amounts of feel-good attitude. The thing is, the only way this feel-good thing works is if you don’t think about it. You have to keep you brain switched off, because, if you try to find the meaning (as no doubt many freshmen did) you will realize that there is none to be found.
So what does the school really want? Do they want us to think we’re all equal or do they want us to think?