Assembly-line puppet-making educational factory manufacturing “minds” … those were the words I used in my protest of my youngest son’s treatment last year at a school that’s not all bad. I’ve apparently not managed to completely dilute my passion when dealing with the flaws of the system. And life isn’t making it any easier. Sometimes the color leaks into my on-the-spot advocacy. Sometimes the sense of being a hypocrite while standing up for what matters when it matters while still sending my kids into an impossible set-up WHILE telling them to “be yourself,” that sense of hypocrisy is…huge.
My daughter’s a sophomore in high school this year. She’s all done. Finished. Had enough. What’s the point? She can’t see the value. This is not unusual but it’s sad. Her articulation of the lack of meaningful, inspiring challenge, the overload of tedious work, the pointlessness of some of the lessons, the immaturity of some teachers, the inaccuracy of others is, all of it, overwhelming. What do you do, as a parent, about the contradictions, the good/bad, indifferent/inspiring? How do you honor the truth your child expresses (Yes! That teacher was, in fact, very immature to…) and maintain credibility as one insisting she continue to put up with the very things I encourage her to avoid BECOMING later on in life? Is it really possible? To maintain credibility? It seems to be working thus far only because I don’t hesitate to affirm whatever I can affirm of my children’s insights, most especially those insights exposing the murder (my daughter’s word) of learning and of inspiration, of creativity (again, my daughter’s choice of words). It’s doable. I’m doing it. But I’m wondering when the revolution? When the shift? When will this batch-producing education system be dismantled because the prototype is useless?
(Sir) Ken Robinson kindly and truthfully acknowledges that teachers are not to blame (some of them, forgive me, thoroughly enjoy the position of taskMASTER and slaveDRIVER and would keep the monster well fed for the next 2 centuries if you let them…revolution? what? just CONFORM NOW.), that the problem itself is hardwired into the system. He’s right. In fact, he says it beautifully here:
There is no cultural identity without loss of soul in this system and that is why my daughter calls it “murderous.” It boils down to seeing it for what it is, using what can be used in order to get the diploma to get the degree that might or might not facilitate a viable economic resourcefulness while making a friend or two along the way. Usually, for those who are aware, a friend or two who sees it all for what it is but continues to plod along is as “cultural” as it gets. How do you tell your child “Life is conspiring to bless you” when you’re asking them to tolerate bull for the hopes of a maybe payoff? It’s a wicked difficult sell requiring a few timely “illness” days and a heck of a lot of compassion without loss of backbone.
At this point, my sell consists of potent acknowledgement of the sham set-up and how our best bet is to use it for best possible outcomes while refusing to give up on what matters most. It doesn’t completely work. My children are required to lose touch with their bodies, with their originality, with divergent thinking. It does put me in the position of Court Jester and Queen Defiant with a touch of good old-fashioned trouble-maker who occasionally reminds them the appearance of conformity can really pay off. And let’s not forget the teachers who really truly care and make a huge difference within the monstrous mechanism. Hypocrite? I’ll take the label if that’s what is required to embody a revolution without actually sweeping in on them and rescuing them from oppression. I prefer to see myself as the facilitator of defection (in place) until the world makes for them a friendlier space (or until they create their own revolutions…). For a few years the ongoing welcome home wagon dialogue with my middle guy, my oldest son when he got in the car after school ran along the lines of: “Did you get in trouble today?” “No…” “WHAT?! Why NOT?! You’re a KID! Bend the rules! Don’t be good just to appear good. Be yourself.” (Not that my children are encouraged to be disrespectful or rude…but the system asks they lose the very soul of what it is to be human. I make it my task to keep them in remembrance and in practice.)
In the meantime, the cops haven’t confiscated my couch to prove that unlocked doors can make theft MUCH easier on the thieves (previous post re: lockers in middle school) and my kids have not lost their edge or their ability to see, feel, create and paint outside the lines. I suppose this is the best we can make of life’s outdated institutions. For now.