One of my students dropped out today.
He is not my first, but he is my first this year in this school. Rationally, academically I know that my few weeks with him were not enough to reverse years of conditioning and choices that led him to this moment. The social, economic, and cultural forces are vast and beyond my control—beyond even my barest influence. His choices are his own, and they have a long history that that do not involve me except as a forgotten footnote. I know that; I really do.
Knowing is not enough.
I am the sieve. I am one of the many holes that he has slipped through.
And I know his future, even if I do not know him well. I may be able to tell myself that this can be a learning opportunity for him, that he can come back from this and make a life for himself. But in our world—no, in our economy—I know what he has lost even as he cannot know it himself. Knowledge is not enough.
For every success, there are innumerable failures. I could be fine if we were talking about lightbulbs not human lives and futures. So, what is enough?
Grief, perhaps? But that must be assuaged. Perspective? He was lost by viewing him as one among many in need and in danger. The promise of “never again”? But that is a lie to keep the ghosts at bay while I sleep. Acceptance? How can I distinguish acceptance from complacency?
I do not have any answers, I only know that I was not enough.