Homework shouldn’t be seen as a punishment, but as a way to learn good work habits. Which is why I was confused as to why the teacher in this episode would hold a competition to see who has to do homework and who doesn’t. And not only that, but the losers will actually be doing twice as much work, because they’ll be doing the winners’ homework as well. How is that fair or even helpful in any way? The teacher’s choice to label homework as something losers do seems like a lapse in judgment. As for the contest itself, it’s clear that the teacher knows Oscar has some difficulty with spelling. Why else would he give him such an easy word to spell? Compared to words like “republic” and “chronicle”, “laugh” is quite simple. But here comes the teacher’s second lapse in judgment. The teacher seems less compassionate when he mounts all this extra pressure on Oscar to spell the word correctly. If Oscar gets it right, the spelling homework will be cancelled. It is totally unfair to put all that pressure on Oscar, who is probably scared to death already. When Oscar gets it wrong, everyone laughs, as if on cue. In hindsight, it also seems cruel to have chosen the word “laugh.” This is not the ideal school setting, but it is realistic. School can be a place of humiliation, especially for students like Oscar.
Connie is reading her Bible again and learning new words and concepts. And of course we get to learn along with her. She makes reference to the Bible study with Robyn, Oscar, and Pamela which was created just four episodes ago. That’s right—the elusive Bible study which we only get to hear about but never actually witness. It must happen at night when everyone else has gone home. But for this episode, the audience not being present at the Bible study is an advantage. If we heard how Oscar acted at the Bible study firsthand, then it would be immediately obvious that something is very wrong. But we don’t hear that scene firsthand. Instead, Connie makes a passing comment about Oscar’s reluctance to read and his inability to remember things. Is Connie exaggerating things? Maybe Oscar was just making a joke when he messed up the Lord’s Prayer. We don’t know for sure yet. This is a story with a particular narrative. We have to figure out what’s going on for ourselves as we acquire more pieces of information about Oscar’s condition along the way. If everything was perfectly clear from the beginning, it wouldn’t be as interesting of a story.
You might be tempted to come to the conclusion that maybe Oscar isn’t that bright. Maybe he’ll never be a very good student. But that’s not the case. The fact is having dyslexia has nothing to do with someone’s level of intelligence. Oscar has his strengths but he needs help in certain areas because of his learning disability. For example, for his and Robyn’s science fair project, Oscar is the brains behind it. He’s the one who comes up with the idea to build a model volcano and, despite Robyn’s lack of belief in him, his enthusiasm brings the project to completion. I get the feeling Oscar likes the environment at Whit’s End a lot more than at school. Even when Whit gets Oscar to read the menu out to him, it isn’t in front of other people in a setting where he would be humiliated. Whit’s compassion for Oscar—the fact that he even cares to find out what is really going on—is so evident in that scene. No one had ever done that for Oscar before. Not his teachers, not his parents. It’s only through Whit’s initiative that Oscar’s parents decide to pay special attention to him and take him to a specialist.
It’s interesting that during this time Whit doesn’t tell Robyn that Oscar might have dyslexia, even though he strongly suspects it. He expects Robyn to treat Oscar like a human being, whether he has a disability or not. And when Robyn does blow up at Oscar after the volcano blows up, Mr. Whittaker has some pretty tough words for her. When Robyn finds out about Oscar’s dyslexia and suddenly feels sorry for acting out in anger, Whit makes it clear that in a way it does not make a difference whether Oscar has dyslexia or not. You simply cannot treat people like that. That’s where unconditional love comes in. Even when it’s difficult, even when it doesn’t seem like they deserve it, God wants you to love people the same way he loves everyone. I thought this was a brilliant way to look at the situation. Instead of making a special exception for Oscar as someone who you shouldn’t yell and scream at when you lose your temper, Odyssey reminds us that we are called to love all people unconditionally no matter the circumstance. That’s a powerful and perhaps unexpected message. This episode manages to stay interesting right from the beginning and its ending does not disappoint. It gets 5 out of 5 stars.