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Janis Jaquith
janis@radioessays.com
568 words

THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST

I nose my car into the single "visitors" space in the school parking lot. I shift the car into park, and hesitate before turning off the ignition. I don't want to be here. Just looking out at that huge, sprawling building makes me queasy. And why are there no windows?

It's time for yet another meeting with the vice-principal, because there has been yet another problem with the school's computers, and he has rounded up the usual suspects. The usual suspects are my son, Waldo, and his friends.

These are playful, funny wiseguys. Intelligent kids who drive their teachers crazy because they're always asking questions the teachers have no answers for. And these kids are computer experts. The kind of people who -- if we're lucky -- will be running the world in a few years.

In short, these are the kind of kids that the vice-principal finds infuriating.

As my footsteps echo down the long corridor, I tell myself to take a deep breath, to calm down.

The thing is, what I really want to say to the vice-principal is this: Leave my son alone. You blame him whenever anything goes wrong with a computer. You blame him and his friends because you are pathetically ignorant about computers. And you take out your ignorance and frustration on these kids. Stop it.

But I will never say any of this to him. He'd only take it out on my son.

Now, some parents I've talked to have no problems with this school. These are the parents of the athletes. Their kids are given the benefit of the doubt; bad behavior is shrugged off, even winked at.

I walk into the lab and find Waldo and two of his fellow computer-geeks lined up against the wall. In front of them are the vice-principal and a computer consultant who has been called in to figure out what went wrong with the administration's computer. Important data has been lost, and the vice-principal is determined to find someone he can blame.

I stand apart from them and listen. The computer consultant is clearly exasperated with the vice-principal as he slowly reiterates that the administration's computer is not part of any network. It stands alone. It is impossible for a student to access it from any other computer.

Well, the consultant is dismissed, and the minute he walks out the door, the vice-principal announces that Waldo and his friends will be suspended from school for two days for hacking into the administration's computer.

I can't believe what I'm hearing.

And then the vice-principal says that Waldo's in even deeper trouble for planting a virus in the computer lab. Turns out, he'd used the Paintbrush program to draw a virus for Biology class. A biological virus.

This morning, while the vice-principal was snooping around in Waldo's files, he found one named "virus" and said, "Aha! A computer virus!" I am not making this up. In this man's eyes, here was a computer, and here was the word "virus." What else was there to know?

Yes, of course, I'll protest this suspension to the principal, but it won't make one bit of difference.


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