The Parable of the Addicted Students

“When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenant farmers?” They said, “He will totally destroy those wicked farmers and rent the vineyard to other tenant farmers who will give him the fruit when it’s ready.” (Matthew 21:40-41)


A Drug Dealer came to the playground of a boarding school. “Hey,” he shouted through the chain-link fence. “I’ve got something you need to try.”

Some students stopped their play and gathered near.

“It’s called Fuel™. It’s a performance enhancer,” he said. “You will run faster, throw further, and jump higher than you ever did before.”

“Throw farther.” Said one precocious girl. “No thanks. My parents taught me that drugs will mess up your grades.”

“Not these drugs, sister,” he continued. “I told you they are performance enhancers. Fuel™ will give you more energy to do everything, including study. You will get better grades. See if you don’t.”

The Drug Dealer had not lied. In the coming days, the students began to excel on the playground. They ran faster, threw farther, and leapt higher than they ever had. Students who were reluctant at first realized they could not compete unless they also took Fuel™.

They spun so fast on the merry-go-round that some flew off, crashed through the fence, and died. But they had never had so much fun. The see saws presented their own dangers. A couple of student were catapulted clear over the school building, never to be seen again. But in spite of the danger, the students kept using.

Their schoolwork also improved dramatically. They went from making C’s and D’s to all A’s. In fact, they excelled so much in their schoolwork, the administration had to readjust their criteria and invent new grading systems. Students went from making A+++ to grades like AQA450. They changed the school motto from Ex Sapientia Modus (out of wisdom comes moderation) to Work Hard, Play Hard.

The administration was delighted. “It’s our innovative educational model,” they boasted to the world. “We have the best pedagogy and the brightest students in the world.” They won grants and cash prizes for their outstanding work.

In response, they raised tuition and school fees. They also blocked all the windows so the students wouldn’t be distracted by the view from outside. They reduced recess and lunch from an hour each to fifteen minutes for both. They eliminated summer and Christmas vacation, so the students could spend more time on their grades.

One day the students noticed that their playground had become a mostly empty gravel lot. There were no more trees to climb. The merry-go-round was rusted. Sticky puddles of some unidentifiable substance had collected beneath the swings. The sky was rust-colored. They were miserable.

They also noticed that the building itself was running down. Rain leaked through the roof and filled buckets stacked on desks. It was stiflingly hot in summer and bitterly cold in winter.

Some of the students approached the drug dealer one day on their ten-minute lunch-and-recreation break.

“You did this!” they said. “You knew this would happen.”

“Knew what would happen?” he replied. “Everything is the same as before.”

The students went to the administration.

“You need to do something about the drug dealer who is ruining the school and our lives,” they said.

“Oh, you mean Provost Drug Dealer?” the administration replied. “Sorry, he’s in charge of security now. He also writes most of our rules.”

“This is wrong,” the students said. “We must stop using Fuel™.”

“What is wrong about it?” replied the administration. “You all have new crisp school uniforms. We have the highest-paid administration and best educational model in the world! Would you throw all of that away?”

“But we are miserable and our school is falling apart!” complained the students.

The administrators were too busy to answer; they were packing up gold fountain pens, expensive computers, framed art, certificates, and awards into boxes and loading them into their limousines in the parking lot.

The students went down the hall to Provost Drug Dealer’s office.

“You have ruined our school and our lives,” they said to him. “How long have you known?”

“Oh, we’ve known the side effects of Fuel™ for decades,” said Provost Drug Dealer, as he stuffed bundles of cash into a duffel bag.

“You must pay to make things right,” they said.

“Fat chance!” said Provost Drug Dealer, as he put on his hat and headed for the door. “I’ve got business at other schools. See you, kiddos.”

Now, what will those students do? Will they do the hard things and learn the hard lessons? Will they not protest, kick out the Drug Dealer, hold sit-ins and teach-ins, take over the administration, and create a curriculum of life?

For the king of the poor willingly took up his own cross and carried it with help, but the kings of the rich had to be dragged to the guillotine.