Fair warning, this is a very long bloggy post.
After writing my last blog about Halloween I heard something that got me thinking, thinking about school and the way we treat school…and the way we treat our kids.
You would think that in 2015 we would be at a place where education was prized above almost everything else in America. Sure, wealth, fame, and power are all great but they are just tools and without the knowledge in how to wield those tools you will misuse and abuse them and regret the day you came across them. Oversimplifying? Yes. But I don’t believe it to be untrue. Education is the most important thing when you can step outside of the basic needs.
Ah, but there’s issue one – we still are not dealing with basic needs.
Too many are starving, are thirsty, are at a level of poverty that takes generations to rise above.
We refuse to create a change that allows lower income people to rise then damn them for being ‘in the system’. Having been in the ‘system’ for a bit, the few people taking advantage of it, living high off of it, are nothing but a very small, very loud drop in a very big bucket. We tell people to ‘stop having children’ and that’s true – if you can’t afford them, don’t have them – though we’re loathe to teach sex ed to kids so basically they’re learning sex and sexuality from media, the web, and friends. And then we tell people to just say no.
We have so many opportunities to change our world but don’t. And this isn’t a liberal notion, a ‘socialist’ notion, or a ‘commie’ notion, it’s a HUMAN notion. Truly, we are in this together, a think we seem to love to forget. That madman in a foreign land that has his finger on the trigger is flesh and blood like us, he just grew up in a different time, culture, and belief system. There are bridges though that we refuse to use and refuse to see, even among our own country people. Sure, you can’t reach everyone, you can’t save everyone, and you can’t inspire everyone to do more good than ill but there are bridges that can reach to some that CAN be reached. Education is just such a bridge.
We don’t prize education though.
And it’s no wonder.
We have turned schools into knowledge grinders where everyone must go in and try to keep up to what the pace is or they’re left behind. There has to be a standard, we shout, there have to be measurable, there have to be tests. And sure, that’s all well and good but we are teaching tests over knowledge. Data over smarts. We pour money into sports then cut from the arts. We want to teach our kids to be aggressive go-getters who want to win, win, win but we don’t want to teach them how to connect with their heart, or with their soul. Sports are great, they build teamwork, and teach us how to work together, and they let us all take a common pride in excellence, but sports don’t really lead to the future. They can teach us, but they don’t make us. The arts can do both. There are FAR more career paths connected to the arts. Far more opportunities there. Ah, but what do the arts teach us? Well, they teach us to dream, to work together, to plan, and to problem solve. Art is about abstract thinking, a pretty handy tool for the toolbox, eh? But we shouldn’t have to choose between art and sport. We are taking joy from the children, and opportunity, and ways to learn about one another and the cultures and beliefs of the world so that we can remain safe, and unassuming. Parents have forgotten what it was to be a kid and each wants their child taught a certain way, to ascribe to one belief system and if the school doesn’t cater to that child then darn it, we’ll tell, we’ll tell and we’ll make this a problem and darn it, we’ll get that funding cut. But two things we shouldn’t do is limit the experience of a kid in the classroom and we shouldn’t be cutting funding, for god’s sake. If there’s one thing we need more of in our culture it’s education, yet we cut, cut, cut away from it and then claim that teachers need to teach better.
How do you teach kids whose families have never known hope? Kids who can’t see a future beyond the welfare books? Kids who are told they are a burden on society?
Or let’s take it away from that –
How do you teach kids to learn and to be kids when we demand they grow up?
Want an example?
I have plenty.
We have deemed it completely appropriate and necessary to carry guns into schools.
We live in an era where school shootings have become horrifically common place, where kids have to worry about whether a ‘bad man’ will come and kill them at school and their parents can’t help but feel they are lying when they tell them that it’d never happen.
Then people feel it appropriate to flaunt their right to carry a weapon on them into a school, becoming outraged when people take issue with that.
How do you teach children that they matter, and that they are the future when we treat them this way?
We want their respect but treat they and their teachers and schools with utter disdain.
Because we are a selfish and self-obsessed society. We turn our noses up at a movement like Black Lives Matter or the notion that gays are marrying, or that trans people want to be accepted as they choose to be but then we want to cry like children about our rights, our rights, our RIGHTS! We care about rights when it comes to us, to the self, but not to the other. We prize our right to bear arms over the rights of children to learn and the rights of that school to control their environment. We demand our kids be safe but then we want to put them into situations that make everyone at the school feel unsafe.
And here’s the thing – how are those kids supposed to feel if you are carrying a gun? Safe? Good? Or like there is a bad person in their school, and if they are not the bad person then there must be one out there because YOU have a GUN! This issue, THIS ISSUE HERE is not about gun rights, it’s about common sense. It’s about having the common sense, and common decency, to not bring a weapon into a school unless you are an officer of the law or have a justified reason to carry it. Guns are not toys, we say that all the time, so if that’s the case – why do we act like they are another accessory we need to take everywhere we go? Some places by their very nature, should be free of guns. And sure, you can tell me that ‘the bad guys won’t care’ but our schools survived an awful long time without having guns in them…I bet they can still survive without people needlessly bringing them in.
But there is more to it than that. Guns are a distraction, as a symbol and as an actuality. The issue is with the system. It’s broken. We have robbed schools, are closing libraries, and yet we expect kids not only to learn but to excel. We are closing schools and crowding classrooms and creating an environment of chaos. We have known that bullying exists but still have a hard time facing it as parents and educators. A generation of entitlement has lead to another that feels even more entitled. My child isn’t wrong, they’re never wrong, ever, we tell people as behind closed doors we scream at them. Or at each other. Kids learn from watching us – what sort of world are we making them? We obsess over wealth and fame, people selling their bodies, their sexuality, their intimacy to the highest bidder and being rewarded for it with fame AND wealth. We are a society of voyeurs, filming everything, photographing everything and forcing every moment into a narrow scope, a tiny box that proves to the world how happy we are. We have created a generation of vain children who are taught from a young age that they deserve everything, whether they earn it or not.
But is that the truth?
No, of course not. It’s TRUE, but not the truth.
What is true is that we are pushing sexuality and self-reliance and a dozen other adult issues that kids aren’t ready to deal with. We are demanding that they be children but then tell them that they need to adapt to a world that is too busy, too stressed to raise them. We sell them, sell to them, and sell around them and make them consumers from infancy. They are a part of the machine at birth but we don’t teach them how to understand the machinery. How to block out the machine. We don’t teach them to find themselves and their voices. We take the arts and their ability to reach out to and examine the world. We tell them that losing is wrong, is failure, and we cannot fail. Failure is for losers. We have built a loud, bright, busy world and don’t want to take the time to teach that this world is as rough and angry and hurt as it seems. We are a head down society, unable and unwilling to face one another, to face one another’s anger and frustration and hurt and god so much hurt that we’d rather stare down, or at our phones, or anywhere else.
In all of this we’re abandoning a generation of kids and letting them raise themselves.
And to what end?
So they can head to college and either not have the grades to get in, or the money, or if they do get in they will go into debt for most of their lives.
What are we doing?
Jobs want Bachelor degrees but now they are wanting Masters degrees when they have no interest in paying people what they are worth. The job market is a buyer’s market, and the jobs know it.
So what do we do?
We fight this apathy.
We get engaged in the educations of our children.
We invest in their future, not with money but with time.
We start demanding that education get better, and if it won’t get better then we pick up the slack ourselves.
We teach our kids to survive, to thrive, and to grow in this world.
We teach them to be empathetic, and sympathetic, and strong.
We help them with school and then help them into college if they want to go there, helping to find the financial aid, or grants, or whatever else they need to achieve their dreams.
And we let them dream.
We let them screw up.
We let them choose their paths but guide them back when they stray too far. They need to live their lives but they also need to be kept from making mistakes that will ruin those lives.
More than anything we love these kids. Even when they don’t love themselves.
We ow this generation, and the one after, and the ones after those a lot more than we are giving them. We don’t need to make the world child-proof but we do need to make it child healthy. We need to take a step back and remember that we share this world with the past, present, and future, and need to find ways to honor all three and to take care of all three. We need to stop worshipping at the altar of ourselves and stop frequenting the First Church of Hate.
This isn’t always about us.
And you don’t have to like kids, or love kids, or whatever.
But you do have to respect that this will become their world some day and we damn well better teach them how to take care of it a lot better than we have or humanity doesn’t have much of a future at all.
Yeah, we’ve screwed up a lot, but there’s still time, there’s always time to fix things.
There’s always time…until there isn’t.