A Proposal to the Modest


This satirical piece was submitted as an assignment for Ms. Betz’s AP Language and Composition class in 2014-2015 after students read “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift. Some readers may find the piece has a particular resonance as seniors explore the lengths and limits of privilege.

In the years past, I can admit I have ignored arguably the most pressing issue at my school. Every time I heard a student speak of it, I have walked by, pretending that their words did not exist and carried on towards my next class. Yet realizing that I will be a Senior next year, it dawned on me that I should probably pay more attention to the issue because it will eventually affect my life.

Just the last week I was walking in the breezeway when a Senior girl said quite loudly, “I can’t believe they just did that in front of me.” I instantly turned around hoping to see something that I could laugh at before returning to the dreadful Mandarin lesson. But what I found was something so heinous that I am still unsure if I should be describing it to you.

But if you really insist that I should carry on with my story, I will do so, but please note that it will take an emotional toll on my heart.

What I saw, when I turned around, was the image of two underclassmen boys walking, in broad daylight, across the patch of grass they call the ‘Quad’.

I was in such despair that right when I got home that evening and sat down at my desk, I knew something needed to change. Not only was I enraged with the underclassmen, and believe me, I know who they are and they will repay, but I realized just how severe the problem was. It never occurred to me that it could ever be ‘this bad’, but now I was fully convinced that this problem needed to be fixed. I decided to find a solution now, so in August this disaster would be forgotten and I would not have to worry about such a threat to my namesake.

Of course in order to defeat an enemy you have to think like one. But I struggled to grasp why the underclassmen feel the need to walk on the Quad. At first, I thought maybe they preferred to walk a shorter distance to their next class. Yet then I realized that they are still growing teens who have an insatiable want for running around. I mean, how many of them are doing three sports this year? Exactly.

After toying around with multiple reasons why they have this desire, I noticed in my neighborhood this past weekend a dog that refused to leave the front lawn after his owner pulled and pulled on its leash. Even with increased yelling and then a submission to bribery from the owner, the dog persisted that it would stay right where it was. I instantly linked this moment to my years as a kid on the P.E. field when the coaches would tell us again and again to not pick the grass when we had to sit down for instruction. Yet we kept picking the grass, even when we were threatened.

The connection was there.  There is reason why dogs are considered a man’s best friend and its not because they can retrieve the newspaper, saving the lazy American from the strenuous walk to the driveway.  It is because humans are dogs except for the obvious reason that we only use two legs than four. We have the same motives and most importantly, we both share an undeniable love for grass.

My job was going to be easier than I thought it would be. If humans were really dogs, then they could be trained in the same way. So I typed into my Google search engine “how to train your dog” and I found more than I would ever need to know. Leash handling. Positive reinforcement. Voice recognition. Potty training. But looking deeper into the subject, I found that most success stories occurred within one to two years time from their start date. I panicked, but after a few more web searches, I found an instant solution. It was a mass product that according to  Amazon reviewers consistently deserved five stars. One woman, named Honeybunny even described it as a “godsend” and a “blessing to humanity.” On top of that, it qualified for Amazon Prime.

I found the Superdeluxe Shockie, only the greatest shock collar on the market. It was listed for $25.99 and it came in three colors, Bruising Blue, Obedient Orange, and Scared Scarlet. The colors were really the deal breaker for me because I realized that if I was going to be able to sell the idea to the administration they would prefer students to have some personal choice.

I then ran into the dilemma of how the collar would be enforced. Would students be forced to wear them at all times and when they left the school the collar would instantly turn off? Understanding the occasional shortcomings of technology, I feared that the collars would shock sporadically, sending the school into a legal battle among many angry parents. Therefore I decided that the collar would be put on when the students arrived at school and would be taken off at 3:30. Of course, I did not believe students would be responsible enough to put them on themselves when they got to school so I planned that the advisor would be held accountable for that duty.

If the type-A model student was to demonstrate how a morning advisee encounter would go, he would first approach the advisor and say a cheerful “good morning” and the advisor would answer back with an appropriate response. The advisor would quickly glance at the student to make sure he/she was in dress code and then would proceed to take the student’s individual collar off the charging station and place it around his/her neck. The advisor would lock the collar with an advisor-only key and the student would go on with his merry way. At 3:30, the student would return, the advisor would unlock the collar, and place it back on the charging station. In the upmost reverence and thankfulness, the student would thank the advisor with a “have a great evening” and the student would be free to approach his parental units located in a luxury vehicle.

Of course, this was a simulation for a Type-A.  A Type-B would almost certainly experience a different day, filled with discomfort and shame. I always think of Type-B’s as immature, because they are the slow ones that haven’t been able to silence their subconscious need for grass. When a Type-B would feel the urge, they would run, without thinking of the repercussions or blindly not caring, on the Quad. The collar would react, shocking the dog, I meant student, making them fall to the ground. The teacher on ‘Quad Duty’ would collect the student, dragging him/her to the ‘Grass Room’ where he would be held for the remainder of the school day.

Minor details of the ‘Grass Room’ are still being decided, but the primary idea is as follows:
The room would be filled from wall to wall with perfect cut grass, that has been         tainted with chemical that would make the student itch. At lunch, he/she would be forced         to eat the Sandwich of the Day, but instead of any meat or cheese, the filler would consist     of mushy, soggy grass.

After a few violations, even the worse Type-B is sure to have been cured from his grass addiction.

You might think that this is a bit excessive, but if you have read the study that came out in 2005 that found stunning evidence that dogs could be trained to leave their grass dependencies and head for the sidewalk when they needed to do their business (a especially helpful preference for owners in New York City), you would be fully convinced that this method is the only method that works in a short amount of time.

Therefore if you also agree that this issue is pressing, as I know I have heard many of you discuss, I hope you will at least think about my plan. Not to say there aren’t better ones out there, yet from what I have heard, I can attest that my solution is the first one I have come across, if you don’t count complaining as a cure.

Just know I expect to see zero traffic on the Quad in the Fall.