It's 5:00 in the evening, just before dinner. Justin, 14, and his mother are discussing his schoolwork.
Mom: Do you have homework?
Justin: I did it in school.
Mom: Forest's father said that he had an algebra test tomorrow. I thought you were in his class.
Justin: I am. But you can't study for algebra. Either you know it or you don't.
Mom: Of course you can study. You can study anything.
Justin: I pay attention in class. I know what's going on.
Mom: You only got a 70 on the last test.
Justin: 70 is good Mom.
Mom: It's okay. But if you would study, you could get 100. You're a smart kid. You could be at the top of the class instead of in the bottom third.
Justin: Then I'd be a nerd.
Mom: That's not true.
Justin: Mom, only nerds study. I don't care about algebra. When am I going to need algebra? Do you think that one day somebody is going to come up to me and ask me: if Stuart is 6 feet tall and Mary is 120 centimeters tall, how many inches taller is Stuart than Mary?
Mom: That's not algebra.
Justin: Mom, Mary is a dwarf.
Mom: Don't say dwarf, says a little person-and don't distract me. I want to concentrate on this. We need to focus on this. You're going to college in three years and your grades count. And if you want to go to a good school, you have to apply yourself. Just because you've got a good brain doesn't mean that you should just get by.
Justin: I don't want to go to Princeton like you and Dad. I don't even know if I want to go to college.
Mom: Don't be ridiculous. You've got to go to college. What are you going to do? Play in a band?
Mom: Even if you do, you still need an education. You should still study philosophy and literature and science. You should still know about the world.
Justin: There are other ways of knowing about the world.
Mom: College gives you a larger view--more of a perspective. And it will help you get a job.
Justin: Maybe not.
Mom: We can leave that for when you have to decide. But I still want you to study more. What happened to that study hour we set for you? I'll sit with you and work with you on your homework.
Justin: Doesn't that sound cozy? No way.
Mom: You can't play computer until you've studied.
Justin: No problem.
Mom: And no TV.
Justin: Whatever you say. Your punishments don't mean anything to me, mom.
Mom: I want you to focus. I want you to work. You're wasting yourself.
Justin: It's my life. And it's my grades. And I'm not going to study for my algebra test. And there's nothing you can do about it. Nothing.