What I Want Out of School For My Child
Recently, I wrote an article called, "Are Schools Interfering With a Child's Creative Freedom?", and it's something I firmly believe in. However, in hindsight, I feel the article is a bit too static to be considered useful to anyone. After considering why I wrote the article, and what my intended message was, I decided to take a different angle on it. One that was much more personal.
I have a son who's two-and-a-half years old, and in my eyes, he is a genius just waiting to blossom upon the world. And I want him to have every possible opportunity in which to do that. Now, I know that every parent believes his or her own child is a genius, and most are not. That doesn't mean we don't want what's best for our children, whatever their level of intelligence is.
When considering what would be best for my son, I thought back to my own education, and tried to consider the good and the bad of what I received. I went to the local public school until I was in sixth grade, when my family moved, and then I began going to the local Parochial School, until I graduated high school, and went on to college.
As I began considering my own times in school, some incidents began to surface in my mind--some things that may have made a difference to my life.
In Fourth Grade
The fourth grade for me came in the early part of the eighties, when the cold war peppered the news, and terms including the word nuclear were common. At recess, one day, I approached my teacher, and asked, "Will you be teaching us about nuclear power or nuclear weapons?"
His eyes bulged, and he said something like, "That would be an interesting topic, but NO!"
In Sixth Grade
In sixth grade, there was a lot of buzz concerning a beam of concentrated light that could tear through walls, called a laser. I was very intrigued about this, and I wanted to know more. I asked my teacher at the time, "Are you going to teach us anything about lasers?"
His response was something like, "That would be an interesting topic, but NO!"
The fact of the matter is, I had genuine interest in certain topics, but the school system had a responsibility to rattle through the same criteria year-after-year. They have a responsibility to our kids to occupy them for the entire day, teaching them redundant American History each year, English Grammar each year, the same math and the same science, year-after-year much in the same way our parents learned.
There are tests with circles instead of answers, that need to be filled in with number two pencils. There are scores, and rankings, and funding that must be earned. Kids need to be escorted through the queue, and then ushered through the same turn-styles as all of the rest, until each one passes the year, and moves on to the next.
As I think back to my years of school, I remember hours of time spent with my face in my hand daydreaming about something else. I remember having interests I wanted to explore, but no encouragement or environment to do it. And I remember receiving report cards each year with declining grades as I aged, and they began to tell me I was an underachiever.
Once I arrived at college, my head was spinning, and I was not interested in more school. I was hopeful for a new beginning, but at the same time I was hesitant. The first thing I recalled about college was, the question, PICK A MAJOR! It will define the rest of your life.
Looking forward four years, I couldn't imagine what would help me the most. What job would pay the most money? What job would have the most openings? What were my interests? I kept thinking, I didn't know. I wound up changing my major twice in college, from Psychology to Liberal Arts to Political Science--none of which suited me. And once I left college, during the Dot-Com-Boom, I became a software engineer, because those jobs were available, and they'd pay the bills.
In my first few years after college, I enjoyed my job. Software development, especially for the web, is a creative and fun job. The people in it are cool, the work offers great variety, and the work environment is typically loose. Now, I've been doing it for over fifteen years, and I still enjoy certain things about this career, but other things I do not. It's tough sitting in a cubicle all day, staring at a screen, when my mind is somewhere else.
Author, Harvey Mackay said, “Find something you love to do and you'll never have to work a day in your life.”
That is not what I did.
I didn't write this article to bellyache over my own list of woulda-coulda-shouldas. I know my ship has sailed on certain things, and I'm OK with that. It's why I began to write, and I've gotten a new lease on life because of it.
The reason I wrote this is for my son. When he goes off to school, I expect his teachers to respect his interests. I expect them to nurture them, and not stifle them with the same old thing year after year. I want him to succeed, and I want him to be happy. If he wants to be a concert chellist or an airline pilot or a nuclear physicist. If that's what he wants, then that's what I want, and I expect his teachers to want it too. I don't want him to be ushered through the queue of mediocrity with everyone else, only to wind up in a place he never wanted.
I wrote this for my son, and I want what's best for him...