He Was Square Inside And Brown

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The Odysseus Group The Odysseus Group – John Taylor Gatto

Barbara Whiteside showed me a poem written by a high school senior in Alton, Illinois, two weeks before he committed suicide:

He drew… the things inside that needed saying. Beautiful pictures he kept under his pillow.
When he started school he brought them…
To have along like a friend.
It was funny about school, he sat at a square brown desk Like all the other square brown desks… and his room Was a square brown room like all the other rooms, tight And close and stiff.

He hated to hold the pencil and chalk, his arms stiff
His feet flat on the floor, stiff, the teacher watching
And watching. She told him to wear a tie like
All the other boys, he said he didn’t like them.
She said it didn’t matter what he liked. After that the class drew.
He drew all yellow. It was the way he felt about Morning. The Teacher came and smiled, “What’s this?
Why don’t you draw something like Ken’s drawing?”
After that his mother bought him a tie, and he always Drew airplanes and rocketships like everyone else.
He was square inside and brown and his hands were stiff. The things inside that needed saying didn’t need it
Anymore, they had stopped pushing… crushed, stiff
Like everything else.

After I spoke in Nashville, a mother named Debbie pressed a handwritten note on me which I read on the airplane to Binghamton, New York:

We started to see Brandon flounder in the first grade, hives, depression, he cried every night after he asked his father, “Is tomorrow school, too?” In second grade the physical stress became apparent. The teacher pronounced his problem Attention Deficit Syndrome. My happy, bouncy child was now looked at as a medical problem, by us as well as the school.

A doctor, a psychiatrist, and a school authority all determined he did have this affliction. Medication was stressed along with behavior modification. If it was suspected that Brandon had not been medicated he was sent home. My square peg needed a bit of whittling to fit their round hole, it seemed.

I cried as I watched my parenting choices stripped away. My ignorance of options allowed Brandon to be medicated through second grade. The tears and hives continued another full year until I couldn’t stand it. I began to homeschool Brandon. It was his salvation. No more pills, tears, or hives. He is thriving. He never cries now and does his work eagerly.

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