Kids in America, by and far, have no choice but to go to school; it is COMPULSORY. While there, they have no choice but to have adults TEACH them every thing they need to know … on the TEST. The kids quickly lose interest and find themselves wishing they were somewhere else, anywhere but here. So they leave for the afternoon. After all, there’s got to be something to learn somewhere.
It’s all too soon before the long arm of THE LAW reaches over to touch them on the shoulder. “Why you out here, kid?” That’s simple. There’s nothing in the joint that motivates me to stay. “Too bad, kid. I gotta take you in.” In? Where? Not back to that school, I hope. I can’t wait to escape. “Gotta book you.” Why, I did nothing wrong. THEY DID! “Truancy. Maybe next time, you’ll stay in there until they say you can go.”
Fiction? Not exactly. Consider today’s news article from Covington, Kentucky: Students Can Be Arrested for Playing Hooky. The director of pupil personnel (how would that make YOU feel if you were a student in those schools?) defends the action (please follow the logic).
• Recurring problem WITH THE STUDENTS
• Since the students, nor their parents, will listen to us, we need to GET THEM IN FRONT OF A JUDGE
• So we can INCREASE GRADUATION RATES
Let’s see. Are we trying to say one who graduates is one who learns, especially under duress or the fear of incarceration if the learner speaks out (walk out, walk on) against current practices? And did you catch the crux of the matter (at least in Covington, Kentucky): “STATE FUNDING IS BASED ON ATTENDANCE” (the district reportedly lost $500K last year because of poor attendance).
How long must we listen to the deafening drone and the murmuring hum of the mighty dollar as it wedges its way between us and those we love? When will we stand up to the system and say, “Enough!,” when it comes to our children and their freedom to learn?
Is this all our children have to look forward to? A community — THEIR community — that would rather sit quietly on the sidelines as pundits explore ways to keep the coffers full, even if it means seeing our children in shackles to save a few dollars.
In the interest of civility, it is easy to blame the ‘system.’ But let us not forget that same system is made up of people like you and me who say they are involved for all the right reasons, yet when do they act? Seems to me many tend to do very little, if anything, to stand up for the kind of change our children need. Maybe it is the system that puts our children in harm’s way, but the people are complicit, largely because they apathetically choose conformity over change and tyranny over transformation.
If our kids can’t look up to us as someone who will hear their voice, they are left with little alternative but to go ‘outside’ the system to be heard. They are doing precisely what you or I would do. And they don’t need to be bothered by uppity authoritative adults. They need someone to hear their cry.
Not unlike Cervantes’ Quixote, we must be “spurred on by the conviction [our children] need our immediate presence.” Let us stand up to the system (and all of its windmills) on behalf of our children (no matter how funny or ill-advised it may look to others). Let us put the learner in charge of their learning. For those less sure, let us dutifully acknowledge the division’s responsibility to test our children (at least until we are brave enough to walk away from the suffocating grip of federal and state funding that has us trapped in the inertia of the status quo), while standing firm in our resolution to keep doing what we must to return learning to the hands of our children, irrespective of what the scores look like. Many of our division administrators may not be strong enough of character to stand up for our children and stand against the establishment. Are you ready to stand in their place?
Friends, the system will be what we allow it to be. Any ‘system’ that permits fear and intimidation to drive up a better bottom line is utterly useless. Reform doesn’t work. The time is now to tear down the walls and create learning spaces EVERYWHERE kids thrive. When they have outgrown what has been created, give them the leeway to find alternative paths (yes, during school hours and off school grounds!) so they may follow their hearts (rather than the division’s money trail).
What say ye?