On Compliance

I am writing this from my high school’s principal’s office on a piece of printer paper that one of the administrator’s was kind enough to give me. Yes, I am in trouble. No, I have not been caught with drugs. No, I have not been caught skipping class. No, I have not cussed out my teacher. I have failed to be compliant.

Here’s what the yellow slip says:

Student refuses to participate in class. We are reviewing for the STAAR (a standardized test in the state of Texas) and he just sits and works in his orange notebook. This has been going on for a while. He has been warned but refuses to comply. Basically insubordination.”

I showed up to school today for my first period class—on United States History—to be greeted with another waste of an hour and a half. Today, like the last three class periods, my task would be to copy down notes into a graphic organizer while a recording of a computer screen played on the screen at the front of the class. This will go on for ninety minutes. This is education”.

Yes, I do refuse to participate in class. I refuse to waste my time on a fill-in-the-blank handout. I refuse to spend an hour and a half doing busy work.

Yes, I am working in my little orange notebook. This notebook has countless pages of articles, ideas, quotes, and notes that I’ve written. This notebook is documentation of my education.

Yes, this has been going on for a while. I’ve been sitting in class reading, writing, and learning. Every single day. I haven’t let this busy-work get in the way of any of that.

Yes, I have failed to comply, and I’m not surprised that my teacher is mad about it. What else would she be mad about? I’m not failing any of the tests, and I clearly know the information because I can fill out these notes without listening to the video. My teacher is mad about is the fact that she can’t get me to comply. And that’s her job—to make sure I do what I am told.

I should probably just do the busy work. It’s easy, after all. I just…can’t bring myself to do it. I can’t bear the thought that if today was my last day on this planet, I would have spent a significant portion of that time doing meaningless assignments to please my teacher. Maybe it’s a matter of principle. Maybe I’m just defiant. Maybe I’m just making a point about school. I’m not sure.

All I know is this: I can spend my time getting a better education than this school can offer me. I’ll spend time reading instead of listening to a teacher talk about patterns to look for on a standardized test. If I end up in the principal’s office because of it, fine.

All of the great people I admire did more than school. They explored. They progressed. They developed. They improved themselves. They wrote. They focused. They learned. They changed the world.

They didn’t do it by completing busy work in a classroom.

They didn’t do it by being compliant.

They didn’t do it by worrying about their grades.

They did it by dropping out.