Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thoughts on 'The System': Have We Forgotten What It Means to Be Two Years Old?

And this response to Up Against the System is from my younger sister, whom we'll call B. My sisters' thoughts about this whole process are so varied, yet so complementary, it's impossible to take one set without the other.

"I imagine John as, I don't know, the son of a sailor. I picture him out on the sea being wild and free. He has a certain quality that begs for independence. I would feel exactly like you do in this situation. I would want him to pass the tests, do well, and do what was expected, but I would also be angry that he was being fed such formulaic standards and labeled something based on a narrow view of who he really is. Perhaps he is behind in many ways. He was born premature and that gave him significant disadvantages. To me that means nothing about his future. I'm sure there are fascinating statistics out there and reasons why we should follow our formulaic methods of teaching toddlers, but the big picture is often not taken into account.

My boyfriend had to do kindergarten twice. He had a muscle issue with his eye that made one eye stay crossed so they had to cut the muscle and he missed too much school to complete the year. Tragic right? Except that it isn't a big deal at all now. Even more tragic to me is the fact that he, another good friend, and many others I know suffered from poor school systems that didn't bother to nurture and teach them much at all. Systems that, had I been in them I never would've accomplished half of what I did academically. I don't know when our education system took the turn and stopped being about developing the minds of our youth, but it has. From these early childhood exams to the public school system it is all about teaching for tests that are standardized by what? .... the Texas board?

What baffles me is that in the arts we understand what we need to do, but we never take those lessons and use them in real life. That may be confusing so here is my example. In Harry Potter and ... um... the one where he forms Dumbldore's army... the evil is the woman who comes and tries to rigidly standardize everything in the school. She teaches for the exams and provides no useful, practical skills for the students. We see this all the time in children's stories and movies, but yet in the real world we still commit these crimes.

What I'm trying to say is that John has a long and bright future ahead. Whatever happens he is set up for success by parents who actually care and take notice. I have known so many amazing people some of whom were born that way and some of whom took a long time to find their intelligent self. It sounds to me like these people that John is dealing with are hard wired to think that the flip charts will give them all the information they need. I grant they will find some things out, but the other part of me wants to grab John, run screaming from the building for no reason and find the nearest muddy pond and start jumping in it. He is 2! I mean, really, he is a toddler and a boy. They destroy and build and hit and run and throw. They are mini-testosterone carrying monkeys that want to do all kinds of crazy things. I have met some moderately patient two-yr-old girls, but boys... never. They are destructos. They hear what they are told and then proceed to immediately forget it.

I have also thought a lot lately about kids and forgetting how to be one. I think getting into being 2 when you are with a 2-year-old is a healthy thing we've lost. So, I try to be more like a kid. Our two nieces [ages 5 and 2] and I drew all over ourselves 'cause the two-year-old had a spot of marker on her nose. I figured she shouldn't be left alone so I drew on my nose. It snowballed from there. We had so much fun and there was nothing educational or constructive at all about it. Then the five-year-old and I made believe that we were a queen and a princess. Then she decided I was Sacajawea and she was the baby. Whatever... it was fun and meaningless. And healthy for us all."

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