Thursday, October 22, 2009

Strong at the Broken Parts? Not So Much.

My friend Anne had a moment at a coffee shop this morning. She wrote*:
"(I'm) finding it very difficult to be here at the coffee-shop surrounded by LOUD, disrespectful parenting. Time to take my pumpkin spice macchiato and LEAVE, to create my own Shining Bubble of Bliss, where children's Voices (AND the adults' Voices) are Heard, Honored and Respected and Celebrated."
My friend Ren posted this quote from James Bach of Buccaneer Scholar last night*:
"When you speak to your children today, you are also speaking to every day of their future selves. Parenting is outside of time. Take care and take heart in that."

* * *

Separated by the better part of a day, the two posts spoke to me in a single voice. That voice said,

This culture is hell on kids.

And, It doesn't have to be that way.

* * *

The most difficult part for me in Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story was the section about kids being sent to a juvenile jail for offenses such as throwing food. They were jailed in order to fatten the bank accounts of a corrupt judge with a financial interest in the jail.

To the judge, to the entire system, these kids weren't people. They were profit centers.

This culture is hell on kids.

(and it doesn't have to be that way.)

* * *

There was a viral video that made the rounds a week or two ago, a public service announcement reminding us -- for about the ten-gazillionth time -- that kids learn by modeling adult behavior.

Well, no shit.

* * *

I don't go out among the milling crowds anymore. I don't go to places where there is likely to be a lot of conventional parent-child interaction, because so much of it is just too painful to see. I wonder sometimes if I'm becoming a recluse.

I wonder if this is such a bad thing.

* * *

The other day I read a headline that stated that kids who are spanked have lower IQs. Whatever you might think of the whole IQ thing (not much, I say) it doesn't take a genius to realize that kids who wrap themselves in protective armor to shield against the blows of a hostile world aren't likely to come to new situations with the open hearts and minds that serve as markers of intelligence.

And guess what.

Belittling is a blow. Ridicule is a blow. Inattention, lack of respect, threats, manipulation, coercion, withdrawal of affection, these are all weapons against which kids will create their bulwark, their shielding armor that ends up deflecting not just the poisoned arrows but also the beckoning call of the world to engage and explore and interact and grow.

To what end is this violence to the bodies and souls of our kids perpetrated?

What is gained by it?

What is lost?

* * *

Some people understand unschooling to be an educational philosophy. And it is partly that. The root word educere means to draw out. Conventional parenting interprets this drawing out as a teacher-student/dominant-subordinate paradigm -- the adult extracting the correct answers and desired behavior from the child.

But among unschoolers it is more often perceived to be the world that beckons, the world that draws us out, so that we might interact, form relationships, learn, play, contemplate, become co-creators, figure out our place and our way. All of which requires us to be permeable to the world.

Not armored. Not fortressed. Not afraid. But open.

The world needs us to be open to it.

* * *

I love the world. I really do. But the people....

This is a long post. I don't know how to wrap it up, because there is no closure for an ongoing cultural dysfunction. I'll just leave you with the words of one of my favorite bumperstickers and hope that it carries you, open-hearted, into the day.

World Peace Begins At Home
Be Nicer to Your Kids

*posted on facebook


  1. 'I love the world. I really do. But the people...'

    Oh yes! I identify with that feeling so well.

  2. What a beautiful post.

    RE: Spanking. I spanked both my boys. By the time the first was 3, I stopped on the day he turned to look at me to say, "that doesn't hurt, you know." The point had not been to hurt him, but to shock him out of his bad behavior - to get his attention.
    For my second son, it never worked and I quit after a few tries. Like a beagle, he just wouldn't be distracted by a spank on the bottom.
    RE: Unschooling. Every thing I've ever read about it makes me like it. However, most teachers do understand the difference between making a child memorize and regurgitate and the real art of education, which is presenting material in such a way that a child discovers it and makes it his own.


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