Mr. Dawson's Lesson

Once upon a time, as all stories go, there were two boys named Jack and James. Jack was a clever young lad and smart as a whip. But he suffered from one fatal flaw: he did not know himself. He could adopt any argument with ease and defend any side, moral or not. But if asked what he believed, all he could do was sit there and point out the strengths and weaknesses of either option until the teacher forgot the original question and praised Jack for his analysis of each side. Jack did not know himself and saw no need to do so.

James, on the other hand, was not a smart boy. He could be rather thick and was so regularly disarmed in discussions that he often refused to talk. But the few times he did not remain silent, it was to champion a moral truth he did not know how to defend. In many ways, he was the opposite of Jack as he knew exactly what he believed, but could never find the words to say why or how. James simply knew right was right and wrong was wrong. And as long as he felt secure in his beliefs of right and wrong, James also never felt the need to better defend his stance.

Neither Jack nor James could find a way to learn from the other and saw no need to either. Not until a new teacher came to the school one day. He was a kind old man by the name of Mr. Dawson, chock full of information and possessing the patience of a saint. But his main characteristic was that he was difficult.

Both Jack and James found him difficult for different reasons. For Jack, Mr. Dawson always asked for his opinion on a matter and refused to be taken in by Jack’s stalling. For James, Mr. Dawson expected as much out of him as any other student, not a common occurrence when every other teacher had given up. Eventually, both boys became frustrated and went to Mr. Dawson, demanding he explain himself. When Mr. Dawson had heard both of their complaints, he simply smiled and explained:

“I admit I have pushed you both. But it is simply because I see great potential in both of you. Jack, you are a force to be reckoned with in debate, but skill means little in life if you have no beliefs to defend in it. James, you are stubborn and will stand with your beliefs and virtues to the grave. But belief also means little if you cannot defend it against naysayers. Both of you could continue to exist in this fashion with no further improvement and many do. But it is my goal to teach you how to live. You both can be great men. But now, it is my job to teach you and push you to become them.”

And so Mr. Dawson did. James and Jack began to read voraciously, studying everything they could lay their hands on and, with Mr. Dawson’s advice and guidance, both boys knew who they were, what they believed, and how to defend it proudly.

In many ways, Mr. Dawson’s goal is exactly that of Ridgeview teachers who do not teach a student what to think, but how to think and discover who he is in the process. It is an arduous process, but teachers are patient and in the end, their efforts are rewarded with students ready to face the world and its challenges. For preparing us, we thank you. For your efforts in 1st Quarter, we are grateful.

Sarah C.