Sunday Learnin’

Sunday Learnin’

When I first began looking at schools for my son, I used a selection criteria that was pretty much pieced together in an insular vacuum. I had no particular agenda or philosophy other than wanting the best for my child. And when we think of this, I suppose even that criteria is subjective and it could be completely misguided. I had been somewhat aware of the ideas espoused in the ‘Race to Nowhere,’ or other dissertations about modern education and its failings. There is a part of me that simply used my experience as a baseline. I went to good private schools on the East Coast, where the race to nowhere was in full flight, but to proclaim that in the go-go eighties would have been treasonous. This is likely a hard argument to follow even today, because I am not so sure we all agree that nowhere isn’t somewhere. The old somewhere is the new nowhere, apparently. Now’s nowhere is where apparently everyone dreams of going, and in this bubble of expensive private education, the norm is established that these children will go to the old somewhere, and they will more or less kick the shit out of the rest of the people that didn’t do well in school, leading to the conquest of the game of life based on the criteria of acquiring success, money, and power. Yes, sign my son up for that. We certainly don’t want our own children getting squashed on the playing field of life, do we?

One trouble is that we don’t unanimously agree that the aspirations comprising the conventional target are even worthy of ideological challenge. We are still using the paradigm of work hard, do well in school, get a good job (which is fiscally bound, like it or not), work hard, work harder, pay for shit and die. And there is also still a stratification in society based on the individual’s ability to excel in the current system. The more academically successful students go to better places, while those that don’t rise to the top are relegated to other career trajectories. The stratification of society has a long history, no? What is the world we are priming our children for? Will there always be those that employ, and those that are employed? Do you want your kid to win or lose the game of life?

I suppose I could be schooled by many that my perspective on life is extremely skewed, for how very provincial and pathetic is this outlook, and yet I don’t believe I am the only human with these very stringent and deeply rooted notions about society, economy and life. One thing I have found is that these beliefs are deeply ingrained in our minds, to the extent that we don’t even feel they require analysis or review, nor are they spoken of explicitly. And most definitely not in the brochures for kindergarten. They are the quietest assumptions. They are woven into the fabric of routines of parents, in the smiles and the the greetings at drop-off time, in the conversations on the playing fields, in the sports we make our kids play, in the way we parent. There is so much talk of bullying, but are we not simply a bullying culture at the very root? Do we really teach turning the other cheek? Not if you don’t want your kids to end up carrying luggage for the winners in the world. They call Alabama the Crimson Tide.

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