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It is a bleak morning. The sky is overcast and everything seems to have been painted the same dull grey color; the fence that stretches up above our heads, the buildings safely enclosed behind it, even the sky. I'm watching a heart-rending scene. We are standing before a gate and its gatekeeper, an unsmiling, tall man. He separates a mother from her oldest son, and the plaintive cries of the son do not move him to pity. The mother begs to go with her child, but a curt shake of his head denies her even this. The son reaches through the gate to grasp his mother's hand one more time, but the contact is brief as another unsmiling guardian, this time a woman, grabs him and drags him towards the others, who are standing in single file. Some of the others are also crying, but most are stoics and their faces are granite sculptures, betraying none of the emotion beneath.

This is not a prison scene, or the recounting of some sort of war camp, it's the second day of school. I realize that adjusting to school is always going to be difficult for some children, but the sheer coldness of the people who worked at the school surprised me. Shouldn't people who work with children at least pretend to like the children, at least while the parents are around?

I always liked school when I was a child, but I'm starting to wonder if the children who disliked it had similar unpleasant experiences. How do you foster a love of learning in children if school becomes some sort of holding pen? I begin to think that how you are treated in school can be as much a factor in determining whether you fail or succeed as intelligence or exposure to outside intellectual stimuli. It did not surprise me to learn that this school has lower than average reading scores.

It is almost time for me to pick the little boy I'm watching today up from school. I will ask him what he has learned. I desperately hope he'll have an answer.

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