In the middle of lunch, after a long pause in the conversation, my son looked up and announced, "today was really a strange day." As my mother antennas went up, I calmly replied, "in what way, strange?"
M -- "We had way too much homework for today and "interrogations" in Philosophy, Art History AND Science. I wrote my Art History essay and studied an impossible amount of philosophy text, but I didn't have time to look at science."
("oh no, he got interrogated in science -- Murphy's law," I thought to myself)
M-- "Instead, only eleven students came to class."
Me -- "I bet the teachers were angry."
M-- "So angry that they didn't interrogate us at all! We just went ahead in the text and the Art History teacher took our essays. The philosophy teacher told us that when he does pull names out of his bowl for the next interrogation he will skip over our eleven names until he picks one of the absentees."
His cell phone rings and he tells the friend on the other end what he has just told me.
M -- smiling, "everyone is calling me to find out what happened today."
Me -- As I try to draw a lesson from all this, "I guess it pays off in the end to go to school even when you haven't been able to finish everything."
M -- Thoughtfully, "Not always, sometimes it actually does pay off to stay home, you have to know how to manage the workload and skip a class, go into school at the second hour, leave early or stay home when you are not prepared." He has done it too in the past, but he happened to play his cards right today.
So, the lesson is: to get through liceo, you have to learn the subtle Italian art of "risk management" in the ambiguous jungle that is the Italian classroom with its surprise interrogations, or planned interrogations but for only a few students (picked out of a bowl) and teachers that do not coordinate workloads. The final results will not mirror a "fair" playing field in any case, there are too many capricious factors that raise obstacles along the way. As the science teacher told the lonely eleven, "You have just had an important biology lesson -- the survival of the fittest." Or the furbi, or the just plain lucky.
By the time he finishes his maturità exam this summer, he will be well prepared for what lies ahead in the Italian university, starting with medical school entrance exams! (click and look for September 10 post)