Obsession Du Jour; or, Revisiting an Old friend: Homeschooling

After the horrible parent-teacher conference I endured yesterday, my lovely partner cracked open the old discussion of homeschooling. Ah, our favorite daydream.

First, the Conference:
As a worker of the night shift, I have not communicated with the kid’s teacher as much as my parnter has. I don’t sign the notes, I don’t solve the problems, as far as the teacher knows. I am the absentee parent. Let’s hear it for equal rights! If only I could upgrade to emotional unavailabitly I could have all I need to survive in a man’s world. I digress.

Problem #1
The kid was supposed to be there. Who ever heard of a kid at a parent-teacher conference? And that was exactly what I told my partner when he told me that the kid shouldn’t ride the bus but ride home with me. (Did I mention that he’s the one who talks to these people?) So he deferred to me and surmised he had mis-heard. Oh well.

Problem #2
The principal and the school counselor were there. Why? What god-forsaken transgression had he committed? He got a C. He’s in the gifted program and apparently one cannot make C’s and be gifted. Go figure. Anyway, he’s now on probation with the gifted program. This, in his book, is not a bad thing, because he didn’t want to be in there to begin with. Some threat. Anyway, I guess I shouldn’t be so affronted by the fact that they are so concerned with his academic success. At least they weren’t all up in arms about his tardies. Oh, wait….he doesn’t have any.

“My oldest, closest friend is a guy who came to the United States from Latvia when he was fifteen, fleeing from Hitler…. And he once told me that the first thing that struck him about American schools was the fact that if he got a ‘C’ in a course, nobody cared, but if he came to school three minutes late he was sent to the principal’s office – and that generalized. He realized that what it meant is, what’s valued here is the ablity to work on an assembly line, even if it’s an intellectual assembly line. The important thing is to be able to obey orders, and to do what you’re told, and to be where you’re supposed to be. The values are, you’re going to be a factory worker somewhere – maybe they’ll call it a university – but you’re going to be following somebody else’s orders, and just doing your work in some prescribed way. And what matters is discipline, not figuring things out for yourself, or understanding things that interest you – those are kind of marginal: just make sure you meet the requirements of a factory.
Well, that’s pretty much what the schools are like, I think: they reward discipline and obedience, and they punish independence of mind. If you happen to be a little innovative, or maybe you forgot to come to school one day because you were reading a book or something, that’s a tragedy, that’s a crime – because you’re not suppose to think; you’re supposed to obey and just proceed through the material in whatever way they require.
And in fact, most of the people who make it through the education system and get into the elite universities are able to do it because they’ve been willing to obey a lot of stupid orders for years and years – that’s the way I did it, for example.” [‘Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky’ page 236]
[I would have linked this quote, but I couldn’t figure out how; it’s from this page.]

Problem #3
The kid’s behavior and work. He doesn’t like to do work. He doesn’t like to do things he doesn’t enjoy. They spent their twenty minutes telling me what I know already. He doesn’t complete work on time, or at all, he doesn’t sit still. He doesn’t have good reasons for the wacky things he does. And telling me we need more structure for him, checklists. We need checklists. We need routines. Fighting the tears welling up in my eyes, I silently begged, “Where’s MY checklist? Who shall supply MY structure? What should MY routines be?” And yet I dared not speak those words aloud, lest the authorities find out that I am not who I appear to be. I am not a suburban mother, I am an imposter, an alien implant, sent to ruin the lives of the next ten generations of Americans. A terrorist.

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~ by merialiss on October 21, 2004.

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