Why the system loves conformity
…I had to buy yarn, which—when it looked as though I might run out—meant an emergency trip to Michael’s. I had done the first half of Ruby’s head on Saturday and planned to do the rest on Sunday, starting as early as possible so the child would have some bit of playtime to her weekend. If I couldn’t do her hair on Sunday, it would be another week before I could finish it. So I drove down Michael’s that Sunday morning and got there just as the doors were opening at 9:00. At least, that’s when the doors were supposed to be opening according to their website.
Instead, a young woman who was setting up the displays of impulse-buy hoo-ha just outside the front doors, informed me with zero amount of apology and quite a bit of slack-jawed apathy, that the store didn’t open until 10:00 a.m. Being desperately in need of the yarn, I offered the girl a mutually beneficial plan. “How about this?” I asked her. “You run inside and grab me one skein of 100% acrylic Red Heart yarn in black, and I’ll give you ten bucks. When the store opens, you can ring it up and keep the remaining money for yourself.” Please? Please? Oh, pretty please?
I was being nice but I was displeased with the situation. Much like Ruby was displeased with the self-portrait she made as part of her district-approved, two-hours-long, once-every-six-to-eight-weeks art class at school. Mind you, her self portrait was completed in three stages AFTER a 40-minute lecture during which the kids watched a volunteer parent draw shapes on the white board while explaining, thiiiiiis is a ciiiiiirrrrrccccle, thiiiiiis is a squaaaaaare, thiiiiiis is a triiiiiiangle. And thiiiiiis is meeeeee blowing my braaaaaaains out on behalf of the wiggly children suffering the long-winded example. Oh. Wait. Did I just say that?
The assignment was to use the shapes to make a self-portrait. If the kids deviated from the instructions (“No, honey. Heads are not round.”), they were corrected (“Heads are oval.”). They were not allowed to go ahead. They had to stick with the stages, which were…
Stage 1, the sketch:
Stage 2, the second sketch (Ruby got in trouble for adding color because it wasn’t time to add color):
Is it me, or does her smile get progressively weaker?
“Look what they made me do to my body, Mom!” she said. “My body is NOT square. Look at my legs! Look at my fingers! They MADE me do that!”
And not only did they make my child do this, but they made her do it twice. Two weeks ago, while Ruby’s teacher went to a professional development meeting, the kids were sent into other classrooms. It just so happened that the class Ruby ended up in was having their art lesson that day. All said, she spent four hours on this square-body, oval-head, round-fingered, zero-creativity-or-inspiration project. That is the our district hard at work right there.
Of course, I used this as an opportunity to explain that some kids don’t have exposure to art like she does, and that this sort of guided project gives those children a chance to practice drawing. Not all kids are prolific in pumping out detailed outfits and lapdogs on a daily basis:
The legs do look fairly familiar, and I notice she could use some practice on the fingers.
Anyway, I also told her that in life, we often have to do things we don’t want to do, especially when teachers or bosses (or mommies, ahem) are in charge. And, too, I told her that I thought the art class was stupid. Yes, I did.
So far, I’ve been able to hold my tongue when it comes to telling her what I think about the Envision math curriculum.
I simply pick and choose which parts of these lessons she’ll be ignoring.
What I have decided about our public school curriculum, specifically here in California, is that it is designed to narrow the thinking down to the most tunnely of tunnel vision humanly possible. It has been designed to squash critical thinking and individuality and any sense of joy in learning. It has been designed to create a future society of drones who can fill in a bubble, recite an equation, and pass a test, but who will never be able to solve a problem that isn’t in the employee manual because they won’t know how.
I’m convinced the system wants these kinds of adult humans to be in the labor force so they will do what they are told and they won’t ever make waves and they won’t question authority and they certainly will not, will not, will not! bend the rules for the lady offering a 350% profit on one skein of Red Heart yarn, because such solution is not in the realm of possibilities they’ve been taught to fathom.
I mean, if we gave kids the rich and joyous education they deserved, who in the hell would be left to work at Michael’s?