The Prisoner*


Obi-wan’s castle in the air

Dear Teacher:

Yes, I see your note in Obi-wan’s book bag today. I see the little pink sticker on his “book” that says “Please SIGN and RETURN.” I understand your concerns. I understand this is what happened:

You told Obi-wan he should practice his writing. He sat down and did that. Then you asked to see what he had written and found this:

A book made of notebook paper and staples with a cover page:

Obi-wan’s Evil!

By Obi-wan

@Obi-wan Publications, Inc.

Inside, it says

“Explore the world of Obi-wan’s evil!”

And there are drawings, labeled

“Battle droid”
“Jango man rifle”
“Droid blaster”
“Luke’s Lightsaber”

And yes, Teacher, I know quite a bit about “Obi-wan’s Evil.” It’s a story, actually, about an imaginary world where good and evil do battle. Obi-wan is playing at being the bad guy. In the game, if Obi-wan defeats the good guys, then in the next battle, the good guys come back and win. Personally, I like the way they’re taking turns. Isn’t that part of Character Ed and those 6 pillars of character we’re all into these days?

Yes, teacher, I understand you have a “Zero Tolerance” policy about weapons in the school. I think that’s a damned good policy, personally. And yes, now I understand that this policy extends to weapons that haven’t even been invented yet and are rendered in pencil on a piece of paper. You can’t be too careful with an imaginary lightsaber, after all.

I confess that I didn’t really realize this was a problem. Now that I know, I have instructed Obi-wan to stifle his imagination at school and only think and write about “appropriate” things. By the way, I like the way you used that word over and over when we talked: appropriate. Appropriate. Appropriate. Tell me, can you spell it? Because I’ve noticed that in every newsletter all year long for nine months now, you have consistently spelled “their” this way: thier. God, I wish you would get that right just once. It’s so disheartening to me. I’ve never mentioned it, of course, because I know society has demanded you make better use of your time, like keeping the world safe from imaginary droid blasters.

But dear teacher, I do understand your concerns. I, too, have concerns. It’s getting harder and harder to keep kids on the straight and narrow in this society. How do you explain away the fact that we are blowing the FVCK out of people on the other side of the world, including children, every day for reasons that have never really been explained to our satisfaction? Real people are dying at the end of real weapons that exist right here, right now. And every morning, you stand your third graders beside their desks and say the pledge of allegiance. And they echo it mindlessly, the good little future cannon fodders. Does the irony of that plague you, too? Personally, I find it offensive. I’d rather see them pledging their allegiance to the Constitution, which has done a hell of a lot more for most of us than that flag ever did.

But did I ever complain about this to you or your school? Never.

I also never complained about the fact that you consistently teach to the lower half in the classroom. I understand that you’re required to do that, and I understand you can’t just leave those kids twisting in the wind or behind, as they say. But teacher, understand me when I tell you that it is MY child you are sacrificing for those other children. My child gets two hours a week in the gifted program. The rest of the week, he struggles, quite valiantly, I think, to sit in your classroom and not give into the boredom, to his imagination, and not go off into that much more fascinating world in which his evil alter-ego wins at battle sometimes and sometimes doesn’t, but mostly everybody lives to fight another day.

I remember the agony of sitting in a classroom, trying to keep a tight reign on a mind that wanted nothing more than to escape….

“Oh I dreadful is the check–intense the agony–
When the ear begins to hear, and the eye begins to see;
When the pulse begins to throb, the brain to think again;
The soul to feel the flesh, and the flesh to feel the chain.”

Emily Bronte felt it, too, it seems. Nothing has ever summed up that feeling of looking around and finding yourself right back in the real world better.

Yes, Teacher, Emily Bronte, too, created an imaginary world and lived there much of the time. Gondal, she called it. It was much more original than Obi-wan’s Star Wars-saturated imaginary plane. It was ruled by women, but not just ordinary women. These women were strong and often underhanded, deceitful, and dangerous. And, brace yourself, there was violence! Most of Emily’s poetry was written in the voice of her characters. This was, above all, a place where Emily could escape the restrictions of being female in the 19th century. There was a zero tolerance policy about such things in Victorian society, you know. NOT APPROPRIATE, Emily!

Some people think she was very strange. But not me. God, no. I understand.

I understand Obi-wan, too. But don’t worry. He will find a better way to exercise his imagination at school. I’ll see to it. I have done everything you have asked me to do this year, haven’t I? Without complaining. I have gone out of my way to offer you support and assistance. I do what I can on this end to make him do what you want on yours. I encourage. I lecture. I plead. I threaten. I take away toys. I try.

I understand because I was just like Obi-wan when I was a kid. I like to think I was a little like Emily, too, since I admire her so. I lived in imaginary worlds and had thrilling adventures. I ended up becoming a writing teacher, a penniless, powerless object of derision. That’s probably the worst thing that might happen to poor Obi-wan. Pity him, Teacher, he lives in a world where imagination is frowned upon, but to him it feels like a great gift. Maybe it is. It will allow him to survive, I suppose. It has allowed me to do so. There have been many times in my life when it was all I had.

But whatever happens, don’t be afraid of my poor Obi-wan. I never, ever let him take his imaginary lightsaber out of the back yard. You’re quite safe.


*From the title of a Gondal poem by Emily Bronte.

AND, I have a new post up at The Invisible Woman….

~ by Scarlet Blue on May 16, 2008.

8 Responses to “The Prisoner*”

  1. What the fuck man. I can’t imagine going to school these days, all the weird, violent drawings and evil metal album covers I drew on my folders growing up, they’d have figured I was the next Dylan Klebold.

    The world, was, is and always will be violent, but the kids don’t have the tools to deal with the utter speed at which they experience stuff now. Our oldest is a great artist, has this running story in a series of notebooks, a bizarre, violent, humorous anime with a bit of death, gay characters, a pervert, a drugged-out hippie type and a bunch of other crap. It’s mostly incoherent, but it’d probably get a call from thier THIER office at the high school (ever notice how misspellings are rampant through nearly every official communication from these jokers?).

    I hate this shit. Fucking automatons is all they want. Go on about the scary stuff around every corner, but never actually talk about it on a mature level, never deal with bullying, you name it. Fear, fear, fear, shut your word hole and turn in your homework in the form of a regurgitated lecture, don’t you dare be creative or *gasp* different.

    How nicely this ties in with MFV’s monoculture rant.

  2. I think the teacher is part of the “No Child Left With A Mind” program. It is a progressive Bush/Education campaign… of thier attempts to emeducate yung folkes.

    boy&howdy….you truly write well when pissed-off.
    Yea, and what Randal said, too. The Dumbing-Down of America continues at an appalling rate. I cringe to listen to the folks at my office talk….American Idol…..the new Taco John’s on Sawyer street….some new shit they bought at Walmart……

    Stayed pissed-off, kiddo! America needs more pissed-off teachers… WILL be a good one!!!

  3. His harmless and charming castles in the air are vastly superior to the mind numbing and banal rote that alleged teacher is feeding the future fodder for the bloody Empire. Must drive you mad to have to deal with a professional numbskull like that.

  4. Yeah, I was that kid, too. It really sucks the way that they beat all of that creativity out of you.



  5. scarlett … what okjimm said … and that obi-wan … keep his room stocked with pens, pencils, paints and paper … the kid is talented !!


  6. What a great, literarily historically fabulous rant. Skinny bitch. Too good mother. I alway say, What Randal said. Randal is my male role model, but don’t let him see this please.

  7. I wish you were kidding about a teacher that can’t spell “their.”

  8. I’m shaking my head the whole time I read this. Now they have to eat with “thier” hands in the cafeteria, no protractors (those can be lethal you know), and god forbid imaginations are used…next we’ll hear that history books will be abolished cause you know those violent American Indians had spears. Can’t read about that.

    I hope you do send this (or like it) to the teacher.

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