I suppose I’m partly, if not completely,responsible in educating Thea about the dangers of school. I share with her news report of schoolchildren murdering one another, the bullying and gangsterism problems in school, and the gruesome incident where a Japanese school boy decapitated a younger schoolmate and left the head at the schoolgate with a note, “That’s what you get for making me go to school” in the mouth. I’m also completely responsible for teaching her to read and think from a very early age, so that she is not blind to the many suicides, self-mutilations and depression among students that come out in the papers. I suppose I created all this rebellion because I don’t believe in school myself. I’ve never had and I never will believe in it and I can say this with credibility because it’s not like I’ve never tried being a school teacher. But is it just me? If Thea being Thea, and she had a more sedated parent, would she be an eager, happy camper for school?
According to Thea, she would kill herself. Over lunch last week, she said she felt very grateful that she had a mom like me who allowed her to express how she really felt about school and her friends, a mom who would listen to her and support her and not judge her from feeling differently than the norm. She said she imagined herself having those moms that push their kids to get perfect scores or measured their kids against very narrow social perceptions of achievements – she would find herself swimming in depression and rejecting herself and whirling in an endless vortex of frustration and anger.
I suspect she’s not bluffing. I’m a highly charged person.I wanted to be a man so I could be Che Guevera or any such militant/activist; I wanted to be a mother because I read that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. Revolutionary or Mother? Either man or woman can be a Revolutionary, but only women have birthing rights.
Like the theme in Outliers, the opportunities a child gets was set in motion long before the child was born. With a mother/rage head like me, you’d expect I wouldn’t want Thea to be like the many damaged children I have met, children who have become damaged or broken. The most fortunate thing for me in becoming a school-teacher was to see schooling problems first-hand and not merely stay skeptical when reading 2nd-hand info or hearing things from a third party. If I pretended that nothing was wrong except my own ‘permissive parenting’ then all her miseries would be dismissed.
But what if the hundreds of broken and damaged teens I’ve met were not wrong? How can I bring a child into this world only to surrender her to a faceless, elected, public-funded authority which understands nothing but to mine the minds of children the way politicians mine the Earth and depletes Mother Nature of her resources?
I didn’t quite pay attention to Thea when she first told me this : “Did you know, if they didn’t have such a thing called schooling, children would not be made to feel like they’re not good enough. Each person would grow up discovering what they were good at and then they will find a way, their own way, to make this world a better place. But when you go to school, all they do is make you feel like you’re never going to be good enough and they don’t teach you things which are really useful to you and your life. They have tests that set you up to not get 100 all the time and people that keep reminding you of how many mistakes you make and how you might not be good enough. No one is ever good enough in a school – and even if you believe you are, you’ll find out all that doesn’t really matter in real life.”
It took awhile for the profoundness of what she’d said to sink in. It wasn’t just a ranting. It was a very personal and insightful observation by a participant of this mass machinery called schooling. I wonder how many more feel the way she does – that schools implant in you how inadequate you are. And I think very few among those realize that what a school makes them feel about themselves has nothing to do with their actual self-worth as a Life Force.
Thea has a lot against school. A lot more than what I could possibly have an effect on. I’ve been trying to teach her a lot of things, none of which she has internalised and produced new or novel insights into. Things like Math or Spelling. Or typing. Or doing the laundry / dishes. I suppose she needs to arrive or be at a point where the situation is so pressing that she needs to think and act upon it. Until the day she has to write blogs or emails, and realizes how touch-typing can save her hours and permit her to have massive fluency in putting thoughts to words – she wouldn’t find the motivation to.
She must also be quite depressed now. I think hormonal changes have a way of transforming the once docile toddler into something else through the onset of a stage called adolescence. She’s finally reading “Being Happy”. You must be quite sad or have started appreciating the value of being able to feel happy to start reading that book. She’s also asked if she can read, “HELP! My teacher hates me,” to learn how to deal with classmates and ……..teachers.
As a society at large, we tend to express shock when children kill or hurt themselves and others because of reasons related to school and schooling. But society at large are the perpetrators of the conditions children have to live in. We glorify the results of an institution that sets children up to fail! We glorify academics as if it is the only measure of a person. We sanctify an institution that takes the child away from the home and rehabilitates them to become little more than fuel for the labour market and hungry ghost consumers for the goods they laboured to produce. We surrender our parental and individual authority over to that Institution, with heads bowed and arms outstretched – and then we claim we can’t do anything about it.
If you don’t believe you have surrendered your authority, raise your hands if you don’t worry when your child wants to play truant, when the school calls you up to ‘talk about your child’. You believe the school has the authority to make you subject yourself to its rules and expectations. Then ask yourself – WHO gave the schools the authority? You did. YOU did.
A mom like me is rare and far in between because a person like me is rare and far in between. I’ve been called, ‘The last of my kind’ so I’m not very hopeful that there would be more parents out there who are willing to listen to their children and not allow this mind-numbing institution called a School to make them feel generic, inferior, lacking, inadequate, unspecial.
A school is not worth dying for. Academic results dictated by the institution of schools is not worth dying for. School is not worth lying, cheating, being bullied or being killed for. School is not worth getting angry over, killing another for or getting even with. School is just school. Stop surrendering your authority to it and you stop subjecting your child’s sense of worth to it. An entire chain reaction – from killing oneself or another as a direct or indirect result of, mental imbalance, emotional damage, psychological dissonance – bas sekolah fees and the time and energy required to pick up and send kids to school goes away. Schools should serve our needs. We go there when there’s something that serves our needs to learn. Schools must be of service to US!!! We do not have to serve the school’s needs by giving it a show of attendance to signify its false idea of relevance.
Schools are worth building, to facilitate learning, to serve our quest for knowledge and positive experiences. But they are not worth dying for. Not a single thing about school is worth dying for or living life as a shadow of our true selves. Not a single thing about school is worth the frustration and trauma that could lead to adult feelings of inadequacy, guilt, underachievement and disillussionment.