Memo From The System


To: Child
From: The System

Re: Your Enthusiasm

Welcome to your first day of school; it is obvious you are excited to be here and to learn about the vast world around you.  I hope you revel in the wonder of this morning and enjoy meeting your well-intentioned teachers.

I want to take a moment to warn you, however, that such enthusiasm will be short-lived.

You have come to The System with a natural curiosity that is the trademark of your earliest years – when every person, pattern, sensation, or sound sparks an investigation driven by your intrinsic love of learning.  Eventually, however, you will come to believe that school and learning are not always synonymous.  You will come to see that each subsequent grade level is simply a rite of passage that moves you one step closer to being “done.”

And, you will count the days with increasing urgency.

As you progress, you will see that although you spend most of your time memorizing Things, you will rarely be asked to apply these Things in any kind of meaningful context.  The System cannot agree on how to assess such thought; this thinking cannot be represented in binary.  However, your retention of isolated Things will define you.  It may even seem ironic that we ask you learn about people who often spent little time memorizing out of context Things, themselves.  Do yourself a favor and ignore that concern.  Plus, analyzing irony is a higher level skill and will rarely help you within The System.

At some point, we will ask you to read.  If you cannot read, you will not progress.  At no point will you be stopped because you have not demonstrated an ability to analyze, apply, compare, critique, assess, or construct.  Doing so would be controversial and the results cannot be quantified in a percentage model.  Hence, they have no value.

The enjoyment of learning how much you have learned, and what you can do next will be replaced by the fear of earning an insufficient Grade.  You will be caught not learning to a baseline level and will receive the appropriate variation of a modern scarlet letter.  Although you will have a deep sense that one alphabetic representation of sophisticated learning processes is being oversimplified and poorly indicated, I urge you to ignore that feeling.

We know what we are doing.  After all, we are the Architects of The System.

Lastly, do not attempt to contact me; I cannot be found.  I hide within good intentions, political motives, unwarranted nostalgia, and society’s insatiable desire to categorize and label.  You, will, however, feel my effects and, depending on your level of compliance, benefit from my rewards.

I bid you good luck.  I will be in touch.


Mike Lee

Mike Lee

Phoenix, Arizona

I am the Director of Outreach and Engagement for The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and certified as a Middle Childhood Generalist in 2004. In 2012, I received my doctorate in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University, however, I began my work in education serving as a para-educator in a special education program while still an undergraduate. My passions in the field include assessment and reporting strategies, the evolving role of technology, teacher leadership, and effective professional development that permanently impacts instruction. I consider myself a professional teacher first, as well as a professionally evolving lifelong learner, who is incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to impact the lives of children.

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