The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Charles Dickens’


The title of this post is taken from the lines in one of the opening songs in the musical, “Oliver,” the play based on Charles Dickens’ immortal work, “Oliver Twist.”  The young waif politely asks his master for a little additional gruel as he is still hungry after receiving his small ration of food at the workhouse in which he has found himself.  He is rebuffed for his display of ingratitude.

This morning as I was debating  several ideas for a post, I opened an email from a friend which was sitting in my in-box.  Normally, I would have read it yesterday but I had an exhausting day and actually went to bed early.  So I didn’t see this until this morning.  It was a great way to start my day, and I hope whatever time of day you view it you will get a lift of spirit as I did.

In a world in which it seems that there are a lot of takers – it’s uplifting to know that there are a few unselfish people left who are still givers.  I would like to offer my thanks to them for keeping the light of decency and gratitude lit.


Being a captivating teacher must be the hardest profession that exists.  I have been a “teacher” in that I did all the training for new employees in my executive search business.  Frankly, it was one of my toughest challenges.

After you have said the same thing over and over it is hard to make your presentation interesting to a new class of recruits.  At least I had the luxury of being able to vary my delivery and the content without having to obtain the permission of someone in a bureaucratic role within a school system.  I can’t imagine the tedium of being bound to a pre-dictated lesson plan, prepared by someone other than the teacher herself.

Other than the ones who instructed me, I haven’t known a lot of people in the profession of teaching.  However, I did meet a middle-aged woman in Chicago by the name of Nadine who was a friend of a friend and who frequently accompanied him to various little social gatherings.  After a few of these I began asking her about what she was teaching her students.  She taught the sixth grade in a south suburban Chicago school district.

Nadine said that her class was reading Charles Dickens’, “Oliver Twist”.  By the time I was eleven I had read most of Dickens and this was one of my favorites.  I thought that we had found a subject which we could discuss.  So I described having read the book many years earlier for the first time and asked Nadine what she thought of it.

To my amazement she said, “I haven’t read it myself.  I just follow the script that is in the lesson plan that the school district has outlined.”  I know my jaw must have dropped involuntarily.  How could a school district allow a person to teach on a subject about which they had no personal knowledge?  Apparently that question never occurred to the people in the school district’s administration.

I quickly moved away from the subject, which seemed to be fine with Nadine and I asked her some general questions about how her school year was going.  She responded, “Fine – only six more of them and I can retire.  At least I’m on ‘bus duty’ for the next two weeks so that’s good.”

I didn’t know what “bus duty” meant so I asked her to explain.

She said, “In the morning as the buses pull into the school yard I count the number of children on each of them and then hand those numbers over to the principal.”

I followed up by asking, “So if you’re expecting forty children and only thirty-eight arrive, does someone in the principal’s office call the two families with absent kids and ask why they weren’t at school?”

“No.  I don’t know who is absent – only that two of them are missing.”

“So,” I asked, “what’s the point of doing the count.”

Nadine responded, “I don’t really know.  It’s just something that the administration requires us to do.”

I am so grateful that my parents cared enough about me to send me to a private school.  In order to do so mom had to get a job to pay for the tuition and ultimately she started her own business.  I had the most inspiring and dedicated teachers in the world – something I think I realized at the time and have learned to appreciate even more as the years have gone by.  It gave me an opportunity to take my small amount of ability and to maximize my capabilities.

Otherwise, like Nadine – I too might be unclear on the concept.

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