Archive for December 2010

When it isn’t about education anymore

December 10, 2010

There’s a movie making the rounds of parents: “Race to Nowhere,” a look at the downside of childhoods spent on résumé-building. I hope that as a culture we’re able to take the ideas presented in that film and think about what they mean for our society and where it’s going, because right now our educational system reminds me of nothing so much as the educational scene in Imperial China. (For those of you whose schools failed you, that’s not a good thing.)

We have two brilliant, talented children. (For the purposes of this discussion I treat that not as bragging but as baseline.) One of them was able to thrive in the environment addressed by that film, not because he was smarter or more talented than the other but because he happened to have been blessed with the correct set of temperaments and innate talents to do so. (He’s a sciences guy with high language skills who learned early how to work the system.) Our other child almost drowned. Though we have always been careful to tailor our expectations to personal bests rather than scores and competition, she possesses talents and temperament that make her a brilliant artist in several fields but leave her ill-suited for today’s school environment; and she breathed the air of a society that said the miracle of who she is was insufficient. By the time she was in 7th grade, she was on the verge of physical collapse from stress. Through careful therapies including homeopathy and intense, loving support, we were able to pull her back from the brink. But by 10th grade she was suffering stress-induced insomnia.

She’s doing much better now, after having bottomed out in ways with which I will not bore you. But in order to do so she’s had to completely abandon the notion of herself as a person capable of academic success, and focus her schooling entirely on art. I’m grateful she has the capacity and inclination to continue educating herself on her own terms, because no school we’ve met (and we’ve tried a few) is prepared to do justice to kids who are learners rather than regurgitators.

It’s tragic not only for these kids but for our society, which is unwittingly stamping out nearly all the kids whose brains operate in ways different from what this racecourse we laughingly call education is prepared to address. This incisive and original thinker, like so many others, will be lost to the places that might have benefited from her contributions.

If we’re prepared to take the necessary risks, as parents we can rescue the kids this system is designed to destroy. But the intellectual life of our culture is another matter. That will require a wide-scale rebellion: not by children, but by parents.

Darkcargo Blog’s review of The Shadow of the Sun

December 1, 2010

Happy dancing! It made my whole week to read this review of The Shadow of the Sun by Darkcargo’s Elizabeth Campbell Nrlymrtl*. She says,

“This was one of those few books a year that would roll around my head during the day when I was not reading it, chomping at the bit to get back to it. The plot and the characters kept my mind and imagination engaged and I could not always guess where the story would take me.”

The most exciting thing for me was seeing how she, as a reader, picked up on the things I was doing with The Tain. I just adore that tale, and to have a reader recognize the story in the midst of a novel and process what its presence there means constitutes a flavor of writerly delight for which I lack words. Suffice it to say I am experiencing total, geekish glee, and I truly appreciate her taking the time to share her insights with her readers.


* Correction: This review was written not by Elizabeth, the Mistress of Darkcargo, but her associate Nrlymrtl. No, that’s not Nrlymrtl’s real name. It’s her Superhero Name. Thanks to Elizabeth for setting the record straight!