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Breaking a 5th grader November 26, 2006

Posted by sdpurtill in Life, Rants.

I had a realization today of where I can trace a whole lot of things back to. Here goes.

Eddie is in the 5th grade at William Jefferson Christian Academy, a private K-9 school in Davis, California. He was homeschooled up through 3rd grade by his mom and one other lady. Since there was nobody close to his age in his homeschooling co-op, he was forced to take higher classes; when he stepped into the first day of 4th grade, his first day at a real school, he was over-prepared.

He was the most egoistical 5th grader you would ever meet. He was an over achiever; he did all of his homework within the first two hours of arriving home from school. One of his teachers posts the perfect spelling tests on the wall; Eddie tests have been on the wall the entire year. In standardized testing, he ranks in the top 2% of the country in both Math and English. He has made the Principal’s Golden Circle (4.0) every semester since the beginning of 4th grade. Eddie doesn’t lose, and he’s proud of the fact that nobody can beat him. It’s what drives him to study his spelling list every night; it’s what drives him to answer questions with complete sentences on seemingly erroneous homework; it’s what drives him to make sure he stays on top.

Every winter, the school would run a basketball league for the 4th-6th graders; the volunteer coaches would form teams, and the “season” would begin.

In 4th grade, Eddie was on the team that never lost — they went to the championship game and convincingly won. During these games, if his team was losing, he would throw outrageous fits on court: he would scream at teammates, cry like a baby, and run until asthma strangled his lungs. He wasn’t the best player on the team, Rob was, but Rob was in 6th grade and much bigger. Rob and Eddie weren’t “team” players; they kept the ball from everybody else on the team who sucked. They were countlessly reprimanded because the only thing they wanted to do was win. Eddie’s parents came to his games now and then, and they were embarrassed beccause their son would throw fits in front of all the other parents. Eddie didn’t care if people saw him crying and screaming: he wasn’t going to lose.

In 5th grade, Eddie got put on the worst team in the league. To say his teammates were unathletic would be an understatement; his teammates were a bunch of losers. Eddie knew that his team sucked, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him; at recess, he would get his team together and practice. During these practices, he would help his team memorize the plays that he created at home; this would give them an edge over the other teams that had more natural talent during the games. The season began, and Eddie’s team lost the first game by 30 points: it was a blowout. During the first game, he had thrown a massive fit. He kicked the ball to the other side of the court and got a Technical Foul. He had at least 10 personal fouls because he was too angry to think straight — he kept on pushing the opponents he was defending. He screamed at all of his teammates when they would forget a play or make a stupid mistake. He cried so hard he couldn’t see the ball he was dribbling. Near the end of the game, he kicked the ball again: he was ejected.

He was a disappointment to all of the parents, coaches, teachers, and other students watching. Eddie sat in the stands alone and watched the rest of the games with his arrogant smirk — he had lost a battle, but he was going to win the war: the championship. One of the coaches took him aside and yelled at him for his unsportsmanlike conduct; “there is more to life than winning.” On the way home from their first game, his mom discouraged him from showing so much emotion on the court, “It’s only a game.” Eddie blew her off; she responded, “You are so arrogant.”

Throughout his whole life, Eddie had been told he was extremely arrogant. He was puzzled by this; what is wrong with being better than everybody? What was wrong with wanting to be the best at everything? Was it wrong that he was born with a mind that was brighter than everybody else in his grade? He was told so. He became aware of his “arrogance” — he slowly began to stop caring about being the best. Since being the best was arrogance, and “pride precedes the fall”, he might as well try to be humble so he wouldn’t have to take a big “fall”.

Over the next few games, his fits became much less violent. He didn’t punch kids when he was defending them; he didn’t kick the ball across the court when he disagreed with a call; he wouldn’t scream at his teammates when they would make a stupid mistake. He was beginning to become a “team” player, and even started to encourage his teammates when they would make a basket.

Everybody around him was suddenly patting him on the back — Eddie was beginning to see that it isn’t all about winning and his ego. Everybody was happy for him, he was transforming to the boy that they had always wanted him to be — “humble”. Eddie’s parents weren’t receiving anymore negative comments from the other parents about him; they were quietly ecstatic. By the end of the season, Eddie’s team had won only two games and lost in the first round of the playoffs. Eddie smiled when they lost their last game and shook each opponent’s hand, saying “good game.” He came back to his team and gave them all hi-fives. He told them that they had helped him learn a lot about himself throughout the season, and that he was thankful that they were catalysts of his personal “growth”. At the end of the season, the coaches passed out awards. Eddie received the “Most Improved Player” award, and the coaches applauded the fact that he had realized there was more to life than winning.

This wasn’t Eddie’s personal growth, it was the beginning of his personal decay. His elders had broken him; they had convinced him that his pride and ego were the root of all of his problems, and he bought the lie. He developed a trait that would destroy many of the possible achievements of his future: indifference.

His indifference didn’t stop on the basketball court; it spread like an epidemic to everything he did. His scholastic ambitions slowly began to dissipate: he became a minimalist on all his homework; he would study the morning of the test; he would fool around in class instead of listening to the teacher. He stopped caring about his favorite sports teams: who cares if the Lakers lost to the Kings anymore, it’s just a stupid game. He wouldn’t cry and scream obscenities when he lost a game of “knockout” in his backyard with his brother — he wouldn’t even throw a punch at him anymore.

Nothing mattered to Eddie anymore; his life became defined by his indifference.

Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Eddie had once strived for excellence, but his aspirations and ambitions all meant nothing to him now.

He sat at home and played PS2.

Seven years later, Eddie comes across a book called “The Fountainhead”. He had been wasting the majority of his life on useless things — Myspace, computer games, PS2, and just plain laziness. He finds the book because his idol, Mark Cuban, said it was his favorite book of all time. Eddie looks up to Mark Cuban because he represents everything that Eddie was before he was “broken”. Eddie loves the fact that Mark Cuban is a mover and shaker of the world, while there are billions of humans in this world are more than happy to live in a state of complacency. Eddie has lived with indifference long enough and is fed up with it; he has grown to hate complacency and any of his peers that live in that state. After reading “The Fountainhead”, Eddie hypothesizes that maybe his ego wasn’t actually a bad thing. He goes on to read “Atlas Shrugged” and solidifies his hypothesis. The system had set out to break him of his ego and had succeeded; they wanted him to be like everybody else: average. He realizes that what he produces while he is alive is the one achievement that will bring him absolute satisfaction. Eddie wants to do something with his life; he doesn’t want to end up average or ever be complacent.

Eddie’s terrible study habits have given him trouble in high school; he has never actually tried to get in A in any of his classes, save one, because he never cared. That being said, he is still an “A” student and will be graduating with a 3.7 3.6. He received decent scores on his SAT, and is in the process of applying to Stanford and Santa Clara University. Getting in to either of these Universities will be more than anything Eddie deserves; he sees college as a second chance — the start of a new life.

This time around, there won’t be anybody to stop me from getting on top and staying there.



1. Megan - November 27, 2006

wow sam! Great post, it left me completely speechless. I still don’t really know what to say so I wont say anything more.

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