September 12, 2009

In Junior High School there was a test.  It happened suddenly, one day.  We were shown a rope tied to the gymnasium ceiling. We were told to climb it. 

My kids climb ropes all the time.  They climb and swing and laugh and play like monkeys. 

Before I stood in our cavernous gym and looked up about forty bazillion feet to the top of The One Rope, I had never tried to cling to a rope, much less climb one.   Where did this rope come from?  Why were we supposed to climb it?  What did the climb, or lack there of, signify?   Were we being selected, culled as it were, as potential cattle wranglers?   Did school officials have cows on their mind? 

Try as I might I can't come up with the answer.  But I know full well the result.  I have a repulsion of dangling ropes.  Any future on a rope swing over some excellent mountain lake was ruined for me the day I was mysteriously ordered to climb over the cold skull cracking floor.   Climb you fool, climb for all you're worth.  Climb in front of all the boys, knowing full well your ass will be hanging over their faces.  Climb though you've never climbed before.  Climb because we tell you to climb.   Climb because it is crucially important that you climb, but we will never tell you why.

Today it looks like metaphor.   Y'all think ropes are important?  Well, I guess my kids get an A+ this semester.   What ever THAT means.   I am reminded of Paul Niquette and Discovering Assumptions.   School does nothing so much as select.   What we call education is simply a process of selection.   Why else track students in first grade?   If the school system has decided, in first grade, who is most likely to end up in AP English in twelfth grade, and if they are right ninety five percent of the time, does this process not prove its own inanity? 

This cowgirl has noticed the rules changing.  The rope, er, the ladder of success, is looking something more like the shifting stair of Hogwarts.   How does school plan to prepare children for the suddenly sifting rules of success?  Maybe they could have the rope test once every year?  Yeah, more tests, I bet that would do it...


Anonymous said...

Yeah, what was that rope climbing bit supposed to prove?

All that conforming. All the time. I still am aware of how odd I am. But now I think most people are odd in their own ways.

Too bad it takes decades to unlearn our precious socialization.
love, V

Karin Diann Williams said...

What a weird coincidence -- we were just talking about this very subject at the breakfast table! It's hard to explain to your seven-year-old how standing in line to climb a rope for half an hour, and then totally humiliating yourself, constituted any kind of "physical education," or even common sense. Thankfully, I think the rope-climbing exercise is no longer in vogue... although Isa (who gets a lot of practice climbing things) could probably scoot to the top in seconds, like Henry and Ry. She just started at a new school this week ... it is a charter school, but a lot more traditional than her last one. I asked her what they did in PE class, and she said "we ran around and had fun." Sounded reassuring.

Katherine said...

Karin, I love it when you show up here. And I'm so glad Isa is in a happy place. I like to think of her running and screaming and having so much fun with a gang of friends. :) Too weird that ropes were on both our minds...321jinx!

Anonymous said...

Wow. This really resonated with me. It explains the reasons I don't like school. A city kid, I had to climb that rope. I was 11. Getting my period, getting breasts, getting nervous in front of all those people grading and judging me rope climbing. And ropes always give me the dread of "can't" and "failure". School is a powerful thing. Why do we let people with so much authority over our psyche do so much?


Katherine said...

Stated plainly, school is so often uncivilized. Is it not?