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Sixth Grade- A Parable

When I was in sixth grade, I had a very wise teacher named Mr. Warden. Mr. Warden knew everything. He explained every subject to us in infinite detail and with extraordinary patience. He made us learn the material by heart, and we spent many hours reciting our lessons in unison. We all knew the sixth grade curriculum perfectly, and each one of us could answer the same questions with the same answers in exactly the same way.

When we repeated back to Mr. Warden the answers he had taught us, and when we used exactly the right words to do so, we always got A's. In fact, everyone in his class got A's, because we repeated the sixth grade until we did.

Now, there were rumors that some sixth graders left the grammar school and went to a place called junior high school, where they became seventh graders. Naturally, we were curious about these rumors. But Mr. Warden shook his long-suffering head at us, warning us in threatening terms of the danger of listening to this kind of gossip. He made it very clear that:

1. He had taught us all we would ever need to know to be successful in life.
2. Those spreading the rumors about junior high school only wanted to confuse us about the truth.
3. Anyone who actually went to this so-called junior high school - if there was such a place -- would fall into terrible temptations which would ruin their future.
4. Students who even thought about going to junior high school were very troubled people who would be rejected by proper society.

So, most people kept repeating the sixth grade until they became adults and left school. Sixth grade, as you can imagine, became very crowded, and the textbooks were all broken and torn and scribbled in. The same lessons were taught each year so that, as the students got older, they paid less and less attention to what Mr. Warden was saying. Most of them could hardly wait to get out of school. When they did leave, they ran their businesses and conducted their lives with all the wisdom they had gained through their sixth-grade education.

Once in a while, one of my friends would whisper to me that he had met so-and-so who was attending [whisper] junior high school. He said that so-and-so showed him his new textbook which contained all the subjects taught in the new school. I had never heard of any of them. He told my friend how exciting it was in the new school, and that the classes there were very small because hardly anyone had the courage to attend.

But I didn't believe all that. No one I knew would be foolish enough to take those risks. And anyway, I didn't want to be looked upon as a weirdo and an outcast.

Posted 1-15-05

Copyright: John W. Sloat 2005