The System Had Given Up

Our almost 26-year-old son continues to amaze me. Consider this Facebook post a couple of days ago.

The sun is gone and there is no light to see

the moon is coverd and theres only a little breez

the waves crash and roll your sail boat around

the sound of rain splatter all around

dont give up and dont give in

keep sailing on untill you see

the lighthouse to lead you in.

I asked where the lyric was from and he replied that he’d written it because he was bored the night before. Wow. Let me explain my reaction.

Andrew struggled through school. He was two when we brought him home from Thailand. He didn’t speak even the most basic English words for almost a year. And then one day, he started talking. We learned that he wants to master something before he exhibits the behavior.

He also had a vision problem, which he ultimately outgrew, and a hole in one eardrum which couldn’t be surgically repaired until he was seven. Both of those contributed to his difficulty in learning to read in school.

A third factor, the most critical one, was that he’d not heard English the first two years of his life. There are research studies which indicate that those first two years are critical to language development in a child.

So Andrew had three obstacles to book learning. Then there was ninth grade. His math teacher told us in a parent conference in front of him that he was an “evil child” because he didn’t try to learn in his class. She obviously hadn’t read the parent-teacher conference reports from each semester for nine years or the school psychologist’s reports. His science teacher announced the first day of class that she didn’t care whether the students passed or not, she had a contract and would be paid regardless.

That’s when he felt “the system” had given up on him so, in many ways, he also gave up.

He graduated, but it was a struggle, which included a couple of summer school sessions and some online classes. He took the state-mandated biology test five times.

He graduated without any sense of educational self-worth, would tell us and others that he was just not a “book learner.”

Then two years later, I found The Count of Monte Cristo in his room. I’m talking the 2-inch hard-cover version. I asked him about it. He said he loved the movie – 1975 with Richard Chamberlain – and decided to read the book.

He proceeded to tell me in great detail about the characters, the plot and the meaning of the story.

My non-book-learner.

A couple of weeks ago I say my copy of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln on his bed. He’s reading it.

My non-book learner.

Andrew’s a smart kid, and I don’t say that gratuitously as a father. He has great common sense, intuition and instincts. He was a leader as a Scout. And has earned a job as an operational manager for a distribution company largely based on those skills, his work ethic and his critical thinking ability.

My non-book learner. With the soul of a poet. Who has the ability to amaze.


Image credit: lighthouse photo licensed by at Fotolia © Sergiy Serdyuk
Dr. Nick De Bonis

Dr. Nick De Bonis

Nick De Bonis has been a college instructor or professor one score and six, teaching undergraduate and graduate classes in marketing, advertising, management, broadcasting and communications. A marketing lecturer at Georgia Southern, he's also taught at Savannah (GA) State, Macon State, the Goizueta Business School at Emory, California State-Fullerton, Texas A&M, LSU and Pepperdine. His professional career includes both newspapers and radio, as a reporter, editor, DJ and salesman. He's also the co-author of three professional trade books for McGraw-Hill. An Air Force Vietnam vet who served on active duty in both the Air Force and the Army, he earned his Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Masters from Troy (State) University and undergraduate degree from Flagler College in St. Augustine. He's lived from coast to coast and, although he's been in the South for more than 20 years, his Southern-born wife says he'll never be "one of us."