Tuesday was the first day of school.
My kids are old enough that it’s not that big of a deal. Yes, they were looking forward to seeing their friends again. No, they didn’t like the idea of sitting in a structured environment all day. The week leading up to the big event was a combination of fear and hope, happiness and depression.
I think adults should feel about the same.
I would never send my kids off to a school that I thought was a kind of torture to them. I’m very proud of the philosophy of Expo School, a Saint Paul magnet school, which is based on Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences. Translated into English, this is the radical idea that people learn stuff in different ways.
What makes this a good school is that they understand that diversity is a lot deeper than skin color and language, but is all about the different ways we each see the world. That implies that we absorb lessons in different ways, and a school has to respect these different ways if it is going to have any hope of teaching everyone. Expo does this admirably.
I have less faith overall in the Educational Industrial Complex, the system that turns out graduates as a “product” like so many sausages. Children in neat little desks sitting in neat little rows are expected to be engorged with knowledge dispensed by a talking head like so much Pez. In later years, they will move with the bells pausing not even long enough to salivate like the canines so conditioned by Pavlov. It’s all somehow guttural, somehow rote and base by instinct. But to criticize it is to criticize learning itself, to be anti-intellectual. Who can be against learning?
I’ve always been against learning as something that is done over there, in a box labeled “School”. In our world, things are always done in little boxes, like a teevee dinner from a box consumed while staring with eyes glazed at a small telescreen box. Repeat these cycles until you finally wind up in a box of your own, six feet underground. No, to me, learning is something that happens with every breath and every tiny observation. The world is where I learn, not in a school. Not in a box.
Still, there are the basics that are well covered in a structured environment. It’s tough on kids at times, but much of this is good overall. A good school that really understands diversity is a wonderful thing, and I’m glad to have it. But I have a slightly skeptical view of it all, not unlike the one my kids have. I trust them. They have good instincts, down in their guts. It’s a certain kind of guts that you learn from, after all.