Today was the annual burning of our Constitution tests. We are required to destroy these nationally mandated tests because of the off chance that someone might share them with an upcoming class hence giving them an unfair advantage. I mean, really!? How many different ways can you ask how many representatives are in the House of Representatives?
Right after our study of the Constitution we read Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Some years ago (six or seven?) it just made sense to burn the tests instead of the undramatic shredding of them especially with Montag’s, “It was a pleasure to burn” ringing in our ears. We wait for a good snowfall before burning because it makes it all the more dramatic. Today was the day.
High spirited and cameras/ cellphones in hand, the students tore the pages from their very long and thorough tests and tossed them into the can, the flames strong and brilliant. Someone brought marshmallows to roast and they ran to get sticks from bushes and small trees in the playground. “Play the man, master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, that shall never be put out” an allusion we had discussed ad infinitum in Fahrenheit. A few started, “We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,” they were joined by more voices, “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” when all of them shouted, “do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America,” something they had to memorize and specifically analyze delineating the problems with the Articles of Confederation it spelled out.
It was all deliciously irreverent. A test for which the students spent a great deal of time and energy in preparing, jocularly torn and crumpled and tossed into a flaming garbage can, all encouraged by a teacher on school grounds. There is something very invigorating and yes, cathartic, about destroying the physical manifestation of learning with a strong hint that somehow something inside each of them will sustain some of the knowledge gained from that experience despite its perishing in the flames. Isn’t that what we talked about for a very long time while we read Fahrenheit 451? What a great way for all of us to make closure. What a perfect message to take away and a wonderful way to spend a sunny February day.