This just says it all. September 14, 2006Posted by sdpurtill in High School.
“The Fountainhead”, speaking of Gail Wynand
He had taught himself to read and write a the age of five, by asking questions. He read everything he found. He could not tolerate the inexplicable. He had to understand anything known to anyone. The emblem of his childhood–the coat-of-arms hedevised for himself in place of the onelost for him centuries ago–was the question mark. No one ever needed to explain anything to him twice. He learned his first mathematics from the engineers laying sewer pipesl He learned geography from the sailors on the waterfront. He learned civics from the politicians at a local club that was a gangsters’ hang-out. He had never gone to church or to school. He was twelve when he walked into a church. He listened to a sermon on patience and humility. He never came back. He was thirteen when he decided to see what education was like and enrolled at public school. His father said nothing about this decision, as he said nothing whenever Gail came home battered after a gang fight.
During his first week at school the teacher called on Gail Wynand constantly–it was sheer pleasure to her, because he always knew the answers. When he trusted his superiors and their purpose, he obeyed like a Spartan, imposing on himself the kind of discipline he demanded of his own subjects in the gang. But the force of his will was wasted: within a week he saw that he needed no effort to be first in the class. After a month the teacher stopped noticing his presence; it seemed pointless, he always knew his lesson and she had to concentrate on the slower, duller children. He sat, unflinching, through hours that dragged like chains, while the teacher repeated and chewed and rechewed, sweating to force some spark of intellect from vacant eyes and mumbling voices. At the end of two months, reviewing the rudiments of history which she had tried to pound into her class, the teacher asked: “And how many original states were there in the Union?” No hands were raised. Then Gail Wynand’s arm went up. The teacher nodded to him. He rose. “Why,” he asked, “should I swill everything down ten times? I know all that.” “You are not the only one in the class,” said the teacher. He muttered an expression that struck her white and made her blush fifteen minutes later, when she grasped it fully. He walked to the door. On the threshold he turned to add: “Oh yes. There were thirteen original states.”
That was the last of his formal education.