A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Friday, December 30, 2005

Farris's Christmas break: Any bets as to how long it will take to blame the teacher?

Over at Kauai Mark's, via the EdWonks, there's a fascinating story about a wildly idealistic teen who'll have a great story to tell about what he did over his Christmas vacation, once his parents let him out of the house again (emphasis mine).
Maybe it was the time the taxi dumped him at the Iraq-Kuwait border, leaving him alone in the middle of the desert. Or when he drew a crowd at a Baghdad food stand after using an Arabic phrase book to order. Or the moment a Kuwaiti cab driver almost punched him in the face when he balked at the $100 fare.

But at some point, Farris Hassan, a 16-year-old from Florida, realized that traveling to Iraq by himself was not the safest thing he could have done with his Christmas vacation.

And he didn't even tell his parents.

Hassan's dangerous adventure winds down with the 101st Airborne delivering the Fort Lauderdale teen to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which had been on the lookout for him and promises to see him back to the United States this weekend.

It begins with a high school class on "immersion journalism" and one overly eager — or naively idealistic — student who's lucky to be alive after going way beyond what any teacher would ask.

As a junior this year at a Pine Crest School, a prep academy of about 700 students in Fort Lauderdale, Hassan studied writers like John McPhee in the book "The New Journalism," an introduction to immersion journalism — a writer who lives the life of his subject in order to better understand it.

Diving headfirst into an assignment, Hassan, whose parents were born in Iraq but have lived in the United States for about 35 years, hung out at a local mosque. The teen, who says he has no religious affiliation, added that he even spent an entire night until 6 a.m. talking politics with a group of Muslim men, a level of "immersion" his teacher characterized as dangerous and irresponsible.

The next trimester his class was assigned to choose an international topic and write editorials about it, Hassan said. He chose the Iraq war and decided to practice immersion journalism there, too, though he knows his school in no way endorses his travels.

"I thought I'd go the extra mile for that, or rather, a few thousand miles," he told The Associated Press.

Using money his parents had given him at one point, he bought a $900 plane ticket and took off from school a week before Christmas vacation started, skipping classes and leaving the country on Dec. 11.

His goal: Baghdad. Those privy to his plans: two high school buddies....

Aside from the research he wanted to accomplish, he also wrote in an essay saying he wanted to volunteer in Iraq.

He said he wrote half the essay while in the United States, half in Kuwait, and e-mailed it to his teachers Dec. 15 while in the Kuwait City airport.

So this young man wandered all over southwest Asia, soaking up the local color, inspired by a high school class. Put yourself in the place of the teacher, horrified that one of your students took a lesson so much to heart. I wonder how many times from now on that teacher is going to say emphatically to his students,"Now, I don't want you kids trying this at home..." every time new material is presented? This just reemphasizes the fact that we never know how we are going to influence our students. For you new teachers out there, this might also be a good time for me to remind you to never discuss in class the fact that one can find bomb-making instructions on the internet....

By the way, Farris's mother, in a monument to understatement, is rethinking Farris' personal freedom: "I don't think I will ever leave him in the house alone again," she said. "He showed a lack of judgment." It might also be a good idea to make sure he never has access to that kind of cash or his passport again.

You know, I seem to recall another kid named Ferris who once decided to take a day off, and all he did was bring a German-heritage parade to a standstill by belting out a couple of tunes....

You've got to read the whole story here. The Education Wonks also have a link over at their place.


At 12/31/05, 9:09 AM, Blogger Fred said...

Honestly, how did this kid get all that cash? How did he pay for the plane ticket?

I'm surprised there hasn't been a stronger condemnation of the parents' role in this whole thing. An unbelievable story.

At 12/31/05, 10:57 AM, Blogger The MAN Fan Club said...

Beats him killing his girlfriend's parents like I just read an 18 year old boy did recently. In the USA Today's paper Friday.

WOW, what an experience.

At 12/31/05, 11:35 AM, Blogger Marti said...

Making a list to thank everyone who commented on my blog in 2005 - you did - thank you! List to post later today. Best wishes for 2006!

At 12/31/05, 12:38 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

No kidding, Fred. What was this kid doing with that kind of cash? And what was he doing with his passport?

By the way, note that the "liberal" media saved this kid by getting him connected with a way out.

Man, are you talking about the homeschooled kid who killed the parents and then ran off with the 14 year old girlfriend?

Marti, what a nice idea. I should do that.

At 1/2/06, 3:57 PM, Blogger TMAO said...

In response to Fred, the kid attends Pine Crest Academy, which was $10,000 a year back in the late 90s when I used to stomp those arrogant fools in debate even though... okay, sorry. I imagine there's probably a credit card with a pretty big balance laying around somewhere. Blatant assumption-making I know, but...

At 1/3/06, 6:29 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

The mom had given him money in thanks for a stock tip that had netted her a hefty profit.

Good Lord, these people ARE from a different planet.

By the way, his school supposedly nearly expelled him over this debacle. I'll bet they didn't precisely because they would be afraid of being countersued for planting the idea into his head....


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