Life is Good. Sweet, and Short…
And as always, the Ordinary is the Extraordinary…
And please: Ignore the Silly Rules — for you will not burn in hell for it…
Once, I had a conversation with a young lady about how her day had been. “Pretty good!” she chirped, at first. But within a few minutes, she began telling me what was really on her mind… deep in her heart.
“We might not have recess tomorrow. Or the next day, or the next, until the whole week. And then, we might not even have our party on Friday.”
Questions, answers. Bottom line? Someone in her class had done something wrong, but hadn’t admitted to it. The teacher’s response was to impose the “No recess for the entire class or any party until this has been admitted and righted.” My little confidant’s sense of unfairness was matched by my own. No, I hid my disappointment, because it was really outrage. I was outraged. Group punishment… for children – for anyone of any age — for one person’s wrongdoing?
(Let’s step over to the side for a moment, as well. No party that Friday? Having been a very active parent volunteer back in the day, I have no doubt that several parents and perhaps grandparents and aunts had been planning that party for a few weeks, purchasing supplies, making treats… doing all the usual things. Some might have scheduled a vacation day from work, or simply re-arranged their schedules. Bet they’d be really pleased if it were to be cancelled at the end of Thursday’s school day. Would it really be cancelled – or was this simply a threat that would prove to the children that an adult could make threats of making them sad?)
There were more questions. What else had gone on that day? How was lunch? Who did she sit beside on the bus? Did she have reading? What was the “special” class that day — gym? Music? Computers? She had few answers; she was focused on the unfairness that had been imposed in that threat… that pointless, useless, totally unfair threat. Was a lesson learned from it? Sure: Sometimes adults are unfair.
This, dear friends, is why – although our own children attended public schools (as opposed to homeschooling) and I firmly believe in the concept of the right to education & the need for education for everyone — this is why & how I see our school systems failing our children miserably. Oh no, not this one act. Not even this one concept of “group punishment.”
And so what, you ask? It wasn’t what was learned that day…
This is what that child did not learn in school that day. She did not learn that an amazing story had been read to the class, that a fun math concept had been introduced, that science holds the answers — and even better, the questions — to so many mysteries. She did not learn that you can learn while having fun. She did not learn that running and racing and climbing and jumping are all, in fact, an essential part of making your brain, as well as your body, work better and smarter and wiser and more interestingly. She did not create something with her hands, did not listen to the wonders of music, did not see the beauty in a painting. She did not listen to a story of long ago, and during the same lesson, listen to the music of that time period, see pictures of the clothing worn then, or hear about what every day life was like at the time when that story was set. She did not hear that there are many, many countries in this huge world, and each has so many unique and interesting things to be learned about it.
Perhaps some of these concepts were a part of her day, but if so, they were totally squashed by an unfairness introduced by an adult she trusts – and the adults in her life trust – to open her eyes to the world.
She simply learned that if one person does one thing outside the approved list of things a child can do in school:
Sit still. Stay in your seat. Listen. Memorize. Stay in line. Get a drink from the water fountain and go to the restroom when the entire class does…
then punishment will be imposed.
I’m so glad she is already wise enough to know that this is unfair, wrong, and has nothing whatsoever to do with learning, education, or resolving a problem.
I am so sad that she has to learn this. But I am proud of her. She is strong, and wise. She will learn, and she will persevere, and she will survive.
But how many others will not? How many others will learn simply to hate school, will drop out, or perhaps finish high school but never go on to college, will learn that school is — for far too many children, as one told me years ago – “School is just like prison.” How many children will never find what they feel passionate about? How much talent will go untapped as adults focus on rules and threats of punishment instead of possibilities and imagination and genuine learning?
And that, folks, that is how I believe our school systems are failing each and every child who is denied the right to learn within the classroom with all the resources available, because far more importantly to an adult out there, is that every child will follow the rules rigidly, and for every child who does not, many children will receive a punishment.
I am sad. Truly sad.