Colin Saltry and Joey Daniel, students at Scranton High School in Pennsylvaina, were suspended for one day after skipping gym class last week when they noticed Senator Barack Obama’s caravan pulling into a diner and decided to stop by and make history. Saltry was also forced to resign as senior class president. Senator Obama wrote notes asking the school to excuse both boys from missing class, but to no avail. This incident screams out the lack of common sense employed in our modern day educational system. Let’s look at the big picture, folks! These kids had a chance to talk to the first viable black candidate for president and be a part of the crazy, history-making campaign this democratic contest has been. And even though I’m not a fan of Senator Clinton, heck, chatting with her on an unplanned campaign stop still trumps calesthenics or dodgeball any day!

Part of what kids need to learn to be members of society, employees, and grown-ups is common sense. Life is not about following a prescribed set of rules–it is about using your brain to sort out what’s truly important. Missing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, which come around all-too-seldom, is pure foolishness. As a thirty-nine-year-old woman barreling toward 40, I wish I’d skipped more classes. Why don’t we reward these boys for taking a chance, being part of something bigger than high school, the memories of which will fade into oblivion before they graduate from college?

I wish I could say that I’d briefly contemplated this issue and let it stop there, but, alas, I was so worked up that I actually called Scranton High School (I later remembered the proverbial injunction about not getting involved in a quarrel not my own, and let it go.). When the person who answered the phone refused to discuss the issue with me, I called back and selected an extension which got me a guidance counselor, who verified that the students did indeed attend Scranton High, and who just kept repeating, “but they broke the rules,” over and over again. When he transferred me to the principal’s secretary, I got more of the same, as well as “you don’t know the whole story.” No, I don’t, but frankly, I don’t see what the rest of the story has to do with this particular incident. Whatever the case is with these boys, discouraging them from being politically aware doesn’t seem like the best way to address it. I was unable to find much information about Joey Daniel, as he has a popular name, but when I googled Colin Saltry, I found that, in addition to being senior class president, he ran track and performed musically at a public venue a couple of years ago–certainly all indications of a chronic ne’er-do-well just making excuses for skipping class rather than an astute, responsible young man enthusiastic about life and his part in it!

Following rules is necessary, sure, but as children become grown-ups, the onus is on the adults in their lives to let more and more of the freedom and responsibility of their choices to fall squarely on their shoulders–that is how it will be when these young men go to college–no one is going to be punishing Colin Saltry for missing class next fall–he will just have to make his own choices–and I can’t think of any college professor I have ever met (and there have been many of whom I was not particularly fond) who would penalize I student for missing class to visit with a major presidential candidate. Give me a break!

I worked at a university in a college of education, and saw many teachers pursuing their masters’ degrees, mostly so that they would get a bigger paycheck. In my own graduate coursework, I was in class with many of these people as well, and the sad fact was that a large portion of them were intellectually lazy, and it seemed from hearing them talk that many of them were teachers in large part so that they could have their summers off. This is pathetic. I have a rambunctious, creative six-year-old who I am home-schooling, and my house seems to be in constant chaos from her artistic endeavors and scientific experiments. I am also asked a seemingly endless number of questions. ( I am a person who could sit at a coffeehouse by myself for five hours just reading, writing, and thinking, so this endless stream of noise makes me really nutty sometimes.) I would love to dump my daughter off at a school some days just to hear myself think! But if the price is teaching her to be a sheep, to choose following a rule rather than being a part of history, I’ll take the noise.