December 19, 2009
The other has never been forced to study at all. And he loves to read. He can't wait for the moment when he gets to study more. He uses his own money for text books he chooses. He does not suffer unwillingly for knowledge. This is the child who told me he prefers not to eat or drink too much, because it creates too many interruptions. All the chewing, swallowing, going to the bathroom. Who has the time when they could be reading something?
Parents from Korea call. They want to know how the children spend their day. They want proof. Is this child they put on a plane alone and mailed across the world to land in an unknown place with unknown people, is this child learning enough to justify their money, expectations, and their need to point to excellence? They want to know if I am teaching him enough.
He is here to gain fluency in English. He is living here five days and nights a week. We never ever fail to speak English. We are really good at it. We never lapse into Latvian, for instance. I say this; we are practicing all day. The response is doubtful. And I suspect it doesn't look rigorous enough. Because he isn't suffering in that classically schoolish way, is he? I think they must have no faith in this child's own innate intelligence. I suppose, that is the one very thing that has never been taught or tested, has it? They don't know what it looks like. They don't know what it needs. They don't know how to point to it.
What an oddly mixed message, no? Here is the experience of a lifetime. Now sit down and do these worksheets so we can prove you were here. Do any of us do much better, sending our children off to their various schools? Why do we persist with the idea that knowledge must be seared into children? It only works in a superficial way. You can press vocabulary words, any facts really, into them with a branding iron. You can do that. But the branded mind rarely chooses books over cookies. And it is the choosing we are all anxious to see in our children. Is it not?
Dear Ms. OurReportCard, have you given our son enough worksheets to prove that we can count on him to continue choosing worksheets for the rest of his life? Are your worksheets of such quality that our child will continue to choose quality worksheets for himself when he is grown? Have these worksheets taught him to be the perfect communicator? Our son is well branded. But we can't trust him to play with other children in a foreign language. No, he must work next to other children working in a foreign language. Because work is what all the smartest children choose. So, please, force our son to choose to work hard learning.
Isn't that exactly what most parents are really asking when they send their kids off?