Failing is an Art

I took the pen in shaky hand and traced the letters I could barely see.

An “R” with too many humps, a backwards “E.”

The word I made, that was me.

Age three.

I started school young. As a child, I always craved more.

My intellect, my parents did not ignore.

“Smart” was what I was. What more?

Age four.

To hold me back? I’d be bored my teacher implied.

I must move to first grade or I’d be deprived.

School was what kept me alive.

Age five.

I entered into elementary school.

Learned my fractions, my spelling and every social rule.

I took a test. It said I was smart.

So math became my focus. Personally, I preferred art. 

Five years passed and they assessed my every skill.

I took tests and learned facts, oblivious to their will.

Elementary passed by more quickly than you’d think.

I blinked once and it was gone in a wink.

Middle school came unexpectedly soon.

And so came friends, cliques and boys to make you swoon.

Still, I learned English, science, history, and math.

Late to class? Detention. Even if a fight blocked your path.

High school came as a stepping-stone to graduation.

It was never too early to submit an application.

Get them out and into college, was the teacher’s cry.

Made only a 65? Clearly they didn’t try.

Take these tests for college credit.

The book was assigned. You better have read it.

Homework took longer than class.

Doing an extracurricular? No way you’ll pass.

Did I learn in all of these 12 years of class?

Well, I did my work, made it to college and am still managing to pass.

But what did I learn that made me so “smart?”

Was it the APs, the advanced course? Well it surely wasn’t art.

I learned how to remember the formulas I was taught.

I learned how to find the answers that the question sought.

But how many nights did I stay up studying?

How many nights turned into session of crying?

The only coloring books I had were long green sheets,

My thin gray crayons, my masters of defeat.

A number at the bottom determined my fate.

Failures were not given a retake.

But, now I ask, if failing is so frowned upon then why is it happening now?

If not in graduation rates or tests scores, then how?

We have failed to be people, as we were created to be.

Grades and ranks and scores are all that define me.

We have been taught to become the books were are reading,

And not to just absorb the knowledge we are receiving.

We are trained to be dictionaries and calculators,

To prevent us from being janitors or waiters.

But when are we taught how to be a good person?

We promote SAT words but forget to condemn cursing.

We promote math and science as necessary parts.

Then criticize those who only excel in art.

People are more than just memorization machines.

We can be kind, compassionate or even mean.

But when was the class on loving others?

Where was the course on being a brother?

We learn to compete with numbers and ourselves.

You have to be the best in order to excel.

But we need people of all kinds to make our world thrive.

We need more than just book lessons to survive.

Artists are not failures, though failure is an art.

Don’t push too hard those who have begun to fall apart.

Self-discovery is a necessity to truly have an education.

We need to teach people basic communication.

Art and theatre and music are your passions?

Go forth with your dream to design fashion.

We need people to create the books that change our thoughts

But how can we do that when we’re never truly taught?

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