“I hate math. When I was a kid, I just couldn’t remember all the formulas and I couldn’t figure out how to take what the teacher did and make it my own,” a friend tells me. He doesn’t hate math. He probably doesn’t even hate computation or algorithms. No, he hates magical math. He hates compliantly copying formulas.
“Still to this day, I hate social studies. When I was a student, all we ever did was memorize capitals and dates and I sucked at that. I could always tell by how disappointed the teacher looked when she handed me back the papers,” a woman tells me at a birthday party. She’s interested in social issues. She’s fascinated by the stories of people’s lives. The truth is she loves social studies. What she hates are the memories of having to play Google as a child.
“I hated English when I was a kid. I was home-schooled and my mom had been a journalism major. I remember that she would circle every split infinitive and I had to read The Bridge to Terebithia and what I really wanted to read were science articles and comic books. I used to sneak Spiderman the way other kids might sneak porn,” a man tells me when I tell him I’m a teacher. The truth is that he never hated English. He never hated reading or writing. What he hated was the lack of choice and autonomy and the grammar gestapo who mistakenly taught him that our words are governed by arbitrary rules rather than a deeply human need to communicate.
And here’s me. I hated science, because I was told that an acceptance of science meant I had to abandon the possibility of a deity (for the record, I was asked at church to abandon my acceptance of evolution as well). I hated science, because I was told that my definition of energy (in third grade I had defined it as “the stuff that makes stuff change”) wasn’t as accurate as the one from the book. Looking back on it, I never hated science. I’ve always loved to observe, to test, to inquire about the universe. What I hated were disconnected, overly simplistic models and the dogmatic catechism of fill-in-the-bubble answer sheets.
Children are naturally interested in all subjects. Tragically, through compliance or shame or rewards or whatever, they become the subjects, learning to listen and obey a voice that goes against their identity.