Entropy Comes to Fairfax

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I was born in the coal country of Bluefield, West Virginia, and still have relatives there, such as my cousin Entropy McWilliams who, perhaps influenced by a journalism gene running in the family, is education columnist for the mining industry paper, the Weekly Methane. When Thomas Jefferson High in Fairfax, Virginia, America’s finest technical high school, gave up its entrance exam because it wasn´t inclusive enough, Entropy was outraged. He went to interview Aragola Prosciutto-Salmonella, a housewife and president of TJ’s school board. The following is a transcript of his opening remarks to her. His English bears traces of the slate dumps and back-hollers where he was raised, but is generally comprehensible.

Entropy: I read somewhere, Peach Blossom, that you and some others that probably make retarded crawdads look like that Einstein guy and the apple that fell out of a tree on his had, so he figured out not to sit under the tree, made TJ get rid of its test to get in, because it kept finding smart kids and what you thought TJ needed was dumb kids because that would make everybody equal or included. It makes sense like lug nuts on a birthday cake. I mean, it would probably seem dimwitted at a git-together of from the backwoods that married each too much but maybe that’s what the Fairfax Country school board is made of. Anyway, Turnip Flower, I wanted to talk to you, because they say you run the school board:

Now, Sugar Pie, it might be rude of me to say that you have the brains of a fried egg. It might be accurate, though, or maybe an exaggeration. I don’t mean to talk bad about fried eggs. They got uses. You can eat them. You are probably a nice lady. But you ain’t got a wan, etiolated, undernourished glimmer of a starveling bulimic pretext for deciding who ought to get into a school for smart kids. You probably shouldn’t be allowed even in the next state over because you might emit some sort of cosmic effluvium that would kill brain cells.

So what I figure, Maple Syrup, is that you and me need to figure this thing out. Let’s start by thinking about what kids at TJ are, and what they do. What they are is smart. This may be an alien concept, but you can get used to it as we go along. Maybe. What they do is worry about things like second partial derivatives and DNA replication and spdf hybrid bonding orbitals. This is hard stuff to worry about. They have to be quick in the head. Maybe you think smart means you can find your way home without asking your telephone. No. There’s more to it.

I hear that you are on the war path because TJ doesn’t have enough colored people. Last time I looked, the school was almost all Chinese, Koreans, and Indians. Not the kind of Indians with feathers but the kind with dots. That kind of thing. Well, them’s minorities. Aren’t they colored enough? But you see, or likely don’t, they are smart. That’s why they got into TJ. And I reckon, Jelly Doughnut, that’s is why you want to keep them out. They make it too easy to see what everybody and his dog knows but can’t ever say because the FBI would show up with seven swat teams and one of them therapists ladies that looks likes she needs a boyfriend or a cat.

What I reckon, Potato Dumpling, is that you need to figure out that not everything is the same as everything else. A beagle dog and a leaf blower is just plain different. They both got their uses. You can’t hunt possums with a leaf blower, and you can’t blow leaves with a beagle dog. At least, I never heard of anyone that could. But what you are trying to do at TJ is make beagle dogs blow leaves. They just can’t do it, not more than one leaf at a time maybe if they had a head cold and was sniffing a lot. Pretty soon they’d get discouraged, and lie down, and just not be good for much.

Thing is, Peach Pie, kids is not all the same either. Some can hunt possums, and some can blow leaves, but can’t none do both very good. So they need to be in different places. Even a Democrat can figure thatout.

All right, maybe that’s stretching it.

Now the world is full of kids, Sugar Plum, and—sit down, hold on to the chair—they ain’t all the same. You’ve got black kids who can play football. They put on body armor and head covers and run into each other something marvelous. They make motingator good music and stand on their heads and spin, I think maybe it’s what they call brake dancing, and they are world class car jackers. You probably never saw a Chinese kid who could do any of it. It just ain’t in them. Chinese kids are still good people, but they’ve got their limitations.

But the Chinese kids can do all kinds of equations and chemistry and stuff about computers. Nobody knows why. It’s just what they do. And what that means, Chocolate Drop, is that when cancer gets cured, if it’s sick, it will be someone named Egg Foo Wang or maybe Hot and Sour Ping that does it. But Hot and Sour can’t do it without learning lots of hard stuff funny little letters and tiny numbers floating on top. The black kids just don’t do this too good. Maybe they can blow leaves, though.

The white kids don’t do numbers like the Chinese kids and don’t do music or rob cars like the black kids so they seem like stuffing in between. I’m not sure what they are for. Sometimes they get into TJ, though.

Now why is smart important, Buckwheat? Why do kids matter who do mathematics, which is like arithmetic if you got lots of fingers and they can count in the tenth grade like usually gets done halfway through those college schools?

Now, expecting a dumb kid to do differential equations is like expecting a alligator to play the piano. It just ain’t likely. Maybe once in a while you can find a circus alligator that can do it, and that alligator might do all right at TJ, but most likely it would turn out to be a Korean alligator. Besides, kids might disappear a lot. You got to be careful letting alligators into your school. That’s what I think, anyway.

But we was talking about differential equations, that looks like hen tracks after a rain and can’t almost nobody understand them. But they’re real important if you want to build bridges or airplanes or space ships that can go to Mars. Now, me, Rice Pudding, I don’t much want to go to Mars because all that’s there is red sand and I figure we’ve got lots of sand here and we can paint it red cheaper.

Now I know you want to be fair, Sunflower, and don’t want to discriminate, which is a really bad thing to do, like killing your grandmother. So you want to let kids into TJ that have the brains of a front-end loader so when they got to medical school and you need a brain operation, the doc will show up with a ice-cream scoop and a Phillips screwdriver and won’t know which end to open.

So what’s wrong with a test to see who can cut on brains the right way? It just makes sense, but I guess we could do it anyway.

Well, Gumdrop, I know you got your innards all in a knot because that test did what it was supposed to do and found smart kids like Mr. Spock and you think schools ought to be like prayer meetings where everybody can hold hands and love God and feel all equal. Thing is, loving the Lord and feeling all good about yourself don’t cut much ice or solve a lot of determinants.

To tell the truth, discriminating seems like a good thing to do sometimes. It seems like most Americans just don’t like smart people and want to stuff dumb ones into just about everywhere. Well, it’s working. But who’s going to cure cancer or figure out how to get red sand from Mars if we fill TJ with kids who need a twelve-page book and two coaches to figure out how to dress themselves? I don’t get it.

So ponder on it, Marmalade. In a computer class that’s all about bits and pieces the teacher is going to say to Wing Ling and Jin Ping and maybe sometimes to Willy Bill like this: In a helve-and-discard search of an ordered list, the search time is proportional to the binary log of the size of the search space. Then he says to Jimmy Jack and Sally Lou and Deewan and Lasagna, If Mommy Beaver has three sticks and Little Bitty Baby Beaver has two sticks, how many sticks….

I reckon it would be lots easier just to burn the school down and have cancer and be done with it. What do you guess?