Pardon my soapbox, but this is a hot button issue for me. Only start in on this convoluted bad boy if you have a minute and some patience to spare:
All this grandiose, meticulous planning, despite its naively good intentions, is just reinforcing the same problems that start and contribute to
prejudice. Did any of them, for a moment, stop to think about how outlandishly egotistical this approach is? Who do they think these children are,
self-important grad students dying to impress one another with the depth of their cultural sensitivity? Sounds like a more apt description of the
teachers, who seem to care a whole lot more about their high minded ideals and not so much about treating these children like people.
Children are not stupid, and particularly at a young age, they are not very much influenced by ham-handed attempts to teach them equality. Take one
look at how well segregation, as it stands, has served us. Racial tensions are as high as ever. The children segregate *themselves* in the lunchrooms
and everywhere else. In our eagerness to bridge the gap between the races we have done nothing but harp on and on about the need to 'close the divide
between us'. So they take the n-word out of Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer, make every kid's show cast a spew-worthy balance of carefully selected ethnic
and gender stereotypes, pop in a copy of 'Remember the Titans' and call it a day.
NONE of these superficial actions, especially when taken in context of these same legislators profiting off of the destruction of the family unit and
the prison industry complex, addresses the root of any of these problems.
How do kids learn? Concepts like 'repetition' and 'audio/visual learning' flash through our heads, but they're just random keywords and ideas we
use to try and explain how they learn when the answer is right in front of us.
THEY LEARN BY WATCHING *US*.
They are wide-eyed little sponges who gurgle and smile when they see our face seems happy, or cry if we seem mad or upset. As time goes on they mimic
the shape of our mouths and the noises we make, and they learn to communicate with us. They have no logic or reason just yet, but they have emotion in
abundance. And like the little sponges they are, they soak up our facial expressions, our habits, and most importantly, our attitudes and emotions.
Next time you're out in public, look at a baby. What are they almost always looking at? Faces! Their mother's, a stranger's, and sometimes yours if
they sense you looking at them and make eye contact. They're learning now that all this Baby Einstein crap is meaningless. Unless a baby has a human
being interacting with them, they won't learn nearly as well if at all. In fact, if you just take care of their perfunctory needs and never hold
them, they can die! They are conditioned to feed off of physical as /well/ as emotional nourishment.
They sit back and watch us. They watch us segregate 'these people' from 'those people' and treat them differently because of it. They watch us
fight with our spouses, or talk poorly about ourselves, or throw things in a childish tantrum, or scream when angry. They watch us as we only respect
those we feel are more powerful than us, and depending on what appeals most to them, they strive to mimic the role of either the abuser or the
You have SO many kids now that have had zero guidance growing up. Almost no emotional nourishment. For whatever reasons, noble or not, mom and dad are
out and they're a latchkey kid. Law unto themselves. Nobody to give structure to their life. Nobody to make them feel cherished and secure and worthy
of attention. Ever read about how messed up those poor kids from Russian orphanages are after being abandoned all that time? Lots of rage, emotional
detachment, depersonalization, etc. Well, it happens right here, too.
When you have no structure, your life is a meandering, pointless mess instead of the journey it's meant to be. That's why you have all these kids,
many intelligent, some brilliant, who waste their lives trying to get high so they can just feel something for once. They look to brutality for a
sense of security, or to self-degrading sexual behaviors that they think will make them feel close to someone, or just important, or hell, even just
attractive. They waste their lives in front of screens posting stupid tidbits about their day because there's a yawning black hole in them that is
desperate to be SEEN and a tragic belief that there's not much to look at.
I'm not saying this broad brush applies to everybody, but admit it! It's a huge cultural issue right now. We are evolving further away from our
status as a communal species and you can really see it in the youth. Detached. Dead to this world. Clinging to escape in their lurid imaginations,
books, shows, drugs, sex, movies, facebooks, whatever, self-harming in record numbers, doped up on meds that, in most cases, do them /no/ favors.
They're reverting to animal-like behaviors, for God's sake! The flash mobs, the reckless violence, the pack mentality of gangs from the Crips to the
Plastics. They feel worthless and as such attribute worth to nothing in return. What separates us from animals is not just our awareness, but in how
we approach life. Animals are in survival mode. We may have to resort to it ourselves, but mostly, we make room for living versus just staying alive.
Even in our darkest hour, mankind still made time to learn, interact, celebrate, and create. It is the remnants of our creative and emotional
offerings that have stood the test of time and still resonate with us today.
Many kids these days are in full-on survival mode. Piss and moan all you want about how badly inner city children misbehave, but do YOU live in an
environment where from day one you learned that any sign of weakness could kill you? It's all well and good to watch that stupid Michelle Pfeiffer
movie where she descends unto the uneducated minority masses like a White Learned Angel of Mercy and teaches them about poetry and crap, but get real!
You ever been to North Philly? You try telling those kids about the importance of conjugating verbs when, on their walk to school, they pass by beefy
dudes carrying billybats with bloodstains on them, or people openly carrying firearms. If you think I'm exaggerating, go take the trip yourself. I
wish to God I was kidding or exaggerating the daily horrors these people face. The only thing they have a reason to learn is the metric system and you
can bet your ass they don't learn it in school.
So many of us have noooo idea what goes on in there aside from watching Barber Shop with Queen Latifah on VH1. Blah blah blah fake nails, blah blah
blah weaves, blah blah blah Tyler Perry dressed as an old lady, blah blah blah soul food. We glorify the violence and defang it at the same time
because nobody wants to realize that yes, in America, people go hungry. Or have to sell crack at 13 to pay rent. Or let their stepdad rape them
because they know their mom has nowhere else to go.
This isn't a black or white problem. It is a POVERTY problem. When you strip away people's basic needs for physical and emotional nourishment and
force them to compete for finite resources, most abandon compassion in order to survive.
And then we condemn them for it and act all surprised and wring our hands. "Oh lord! So many youths, blacks especially, committing crimes! I wonder
if, perhaps, it might have something to do with hamstringing them at every turn, demolishing their community and family structure with a lot of
convenient coc aine in the 80's, ensnaring them in the prison system of which they have no hope of escaping, and on top of that, never giving
them the education or safe environment they need to contribute to society. And on top of THAT, instead of fixing any of this, throwing money at them
to shut them up and buy their votes so they depend on us to support them! Hmmm... nah. They just like to whine."
This concept of "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" has been utterly bastardized. Look, if two people are having a race, and the one of them is
wearing metal armor, what do you tell him when he collapses across the finish line last? "Well, if you REALLY wanted to win, you'd run ten times as
hard to get the same results as the other guy!" And there are still those that manage to do it despite the setback! Incredible!
Or do you perhaps question why he was made to wear armor to the race in the first place? Expand the concept. Is little Ramon just stupid and unwilling
to assimilate, or is he perhaps struggling to learn an entire new language and dealing with total culture shock? Is Kathy not studying as hard as you
know she can because she's just lazy, or is she juggling schoolwork on top of taking care of a drunk mother at home? And don't we still act all
impatient with women for not Getting Over It Already when misogyny is so deeply ingrained in our culture that we don't even see it for what it is?
Isn't this insidious bigotry what they're trying to fight /against/ with this genderless school?
All this comes to the same point: Children are NOT robots that you can program. They are infinitely clever and perceptive and you're not fooling them
at all with the charade. Lecture on all you want about the Spanish Inquisition, but it's your scathing criticism they will learn from. You can read
Keats until you're blue in the face but if they can sense that you don't really care about Keats, they're not going to get excited either.
They are not watching the bauble in your hands during the magic show. They watch *you*. Your face, your minute expressions, how you deal with kindness
and rudeness in turn. And the more self-assured and happy you seem, the more credence they give to your example because what you are doing is working
for you. And if you extend that sincere love to them- even a little bit- it would surprise you how many of them blossom under it.
So instead of vainly assuming that we can cram whatever we want into a child's head, we need to realize that developed or not, /they are people/.
Clever, loving, sweet, kind, devious, selfish, all of it in spades. You can't legislate morality or tolerance and you sure as hell can't teach them
through rote memorization.
Provide them with a stable environment, clear boundaries, and firm authority. It does wonders for any kid. And then stop making *them* the focus of
their education and turn that focus *outwards*. Instead of setting them on the hamster wheel from day one by making the focus on a career, start out
by focusing on harnessing their curiosity, creativity, and capability for critical and logical thought. Simple games could accomplish that. While
they're still at that young age, then you teach them new languages when their brains can absorb it!
Stop emphasizing their disabilities! Instead of condescending to them or even smarmily harping on about what a special snowflake they are, just be
matter of fact about it. Focus on finding a different way for them to achieve the same goal and make the GOAL the focus, not the disability. If you
treat someone like they're fully capable, they learn that capability comes from within, not from circumstances outside of your control.
Through example, show them the inherent worth of knowledge instead of making it Useless Crap That Might Get You a Job. Cut this focus on standardized
tests and focus on giving these kids applicable knowledge, and start making more practical tests!
A glove is to a sock as a bad simile is to:
a) potato chip
b) George Washington
c) Keeping a straight face while expecting kids to take this bunk seriously
And can we stop assuming they're too dumb to learn certain things? Kids are tough and clever! Try being a Dickensian-era street rat. It wasn't all
charming little hats and choreographed songs. There are eight-year-olds who pick through garbage all day to try and support their younger siblings in
abject poverty. Not so long ago, a fourteen-year-old girl would be raising a kid. No matter what horrendous mess we've thrown at them, they not only
roll with the punches, but they still manage to find time to play.
Respect them as people without granting them the power to have adults cringing in fear over a lawsuit. Teach critical thinking instead of rote
memorization. Bring concepts together to examine their overall message instead of piecemealing it into meaninglessness. Treat them like they are
capable, intelligent, and productive. Expect nothing less from them. They'll amaze you.
Tackling education alone as the problem is laughable. WE are the problem. Look at this mess we've all made, whether it be through greed or apathy!
Before you go heaping disgust on "all these young hooligans", take a good look at yourself first. If they need to learn that it's important to
treat others with love and dignity, so do you.
But the great thing here is that while we may be the problem, we are also the solution. Love yourself first. Then you can start loving others. And
once that sinks in, this fear and apathy will lift. The strength of our determination to do right by our kids will give us what we need to dismantle
this stupid and ineffectual system and put something better in its place.
We reap what we sow, and now we're so worried about burning the chaff it hasn't occurred to anybody to go further back in the process. I'm not one
to shirk the concept of personal responsibility when it comes to how someone behaves, but that also means I don't shirk the responsibility I bear in
supporting systems that oppress others.
I wholeheartedly believe that one day, we will step up to the plate and take care to sow *all* our seeds so they will be worth harvesting, but just
the ones with richer school districts. So many of these kids, no matter how damaged, have a humbling intensity of emotion. Respect it.
TL;DR MOM! Put down your cell phone and watch your kid at the diving board for God's sake!!