By the Roots
August 1, 2012 § 6 Comments
We were up early this morning, with chores completed and breakfast finished by 7. As such, I offered the boys a round of target practice; we’d borrowed a .223 from a neighbor and they were eager to give it a shot. Heh. So to speak.
We spent half an hour in the woods with the guns, blasting at a paper target and a couple of unfortunate stumps. I was not raised with guns, which probably helps explain my initial aversion to them, but having shot a couple thousand rounds over the past year or two, I now find that a rifle feels quite natural in my hands. The boys hope to be deer hunting within the next year or so; we’ll take a hunter safety course this fall and see where things stand.
In any event, the three of us came out of the forest with rifles in hand and spent shells clattering in our pockets to find a young woman on our lawn, conversing with Penny. If she was alarmed or merely surprised at the sight of two gun-wielding children (to say nothing of their father), she hid it well. She explained that she had come to show us “learning materials” and hinted that we might wish to purchase some, to which I said “you’ve got a tough sell, here,” and disappeared into the house. I did not intend to be short, although it may have come off that way. I simply didn’t want to waste her time. Actually, to be entirely honest, I was more concerned with wasting my time. But since that doesn’t sound very nice, that’s not what I said.
I do not wish to educate my children according to a curriculum engineered by someone else. Because the truth is, no matter how well intended, no matter how well engineered, no matter how flat out smart the designer of said curriculum might be, he or she does not know my kids. He or she knows only some aggregate average of children, which is then wedded to a particular educational philosophy (which I may or may not agree with) to create “learning materials.” Needless to say, there is an inherent standardization that cannot fully respect and honor the individual. Of course, nowhere is this more true than in formal educational institutions (aka “schools”) which suffer the added burdens of maintaining some semblance of order amidst the teeming mass of youth, as they attempt to meet the imposed expectations of state, federal, and cultural entities.
The world is full of committed and well-meaning teachers and other actors in the educational arena. Of this, I have no doubt. But they suffer the same fate as the committed and well-meaning politicians who must do their bidding within the context of a diseased system (although I’m pretty sure there are far fewer well-meaning politicians, than teachers). Some children seem to thrive in this system, although of course it’s impossible to say how they might respond to an alternative, because for most, there are no other options; the financial realities of contemporary America do not encourage a different track, because most families simply can’t afford to consider other options. And to me it seems as if our culture’s messaging, as steered by the steady hand of corporate media, suggests that youth is something to be endured, rather than celebrated. In other words, to live separate from our children, to do our best to ensure that they disrupt our busy lives as little as possible.
Now, it could be said that I do not know what my children need most. At times, I am sure this is true, and like most parents, we suffer from bouts of self-doubt and general uncertainty. But having committed ourselves to this path long ago, and having seen how many of our specific anxieties have been banished by the maturation of the boys in their own time, at their own pace, as the natural outgrowth of their true interests and passions, these bouts come less often and are less acute, and I can see how they are the result of fears that have been seeded into me.
And that the best thing I can do is pull the damn things up by the roots and let my boys learn.