Children of the Cookie

When I started school in the early 90's, being homeschooled from kindergarten through high school was pretty rare. It was something that was usually associated with denim jumpers and family "vacations" to science camps. You know, odd folk.

Nowadays, it's becoming increasingly more common for a variety of reasons beyond the evangelical fear of the big bad world. More and more it seems parents are concerned with how well their children are being tracked.

Now that's all well and good save that I'm not sure we know what "tracking" means. I know what a lot of educators mean it to be. Tracking to them is trying to make every kid respond to schoolwork just like I did. They want cookie-cutter students that carry around books on birds, trees, and insects just in case they happen upon something in life they need to learn.

That was me, wandering around my backyard examining leaves, collecting bugs, and watching birds. I loved learning. Still do. But here's the problem with that paradigm:

I'm not normal.

My very existence is an anomaly to education systems everywhere. I flourished when I was homeschooled. I flourished when I was in college. Though God has directed me elsewhere, my professors told me I would have flourished in graduate school. Yes, part of that is being smart, but it has more to do with a thirst for knowledge and study.

photo credit: theilr via photopin cc
When I watch TV, I'm not participating in the story like a normal person. I'm reconciling plot inconsistencies, identifying lighting and sound techniques, and considering thematic messages. Even America's favorite recreational past-time is still a classroom in my mind. So is it a fair expectation for every single student to wake up excited to go to school and learn? Maybe the better question is, how many of you think going back for more school would be fun?

As if it wasn't bad enough already, this unreasonable expectation has grown into downright criminal proportions. A story came out last year about a pediatrician in Georgia who openly admitted to prescribing Adderall for kids who didn't suffer from A.D.H.D. Just so they could improve their academic performance. He said, "I don't have a whole lot of choice. We've decided as a society that it's too expensive to modify the kid's environment. So we have to modify the kid."

Again, modernism at its finest. Our society values efficiency through mass production over the integrity of the individual. Except that people aren't cookies. We can't be smashed into molds, baked at 350, and come out perfectly round every time. I'm square and proud of it. And I would jump at the chance to work on a Master's degree that had no career value whatsoever. Just for the thrill of intense study.

But this is an expectation I'll never hold over my kid. All I can do--all any of us should do--is provide the best educational environment I can. For her. For him. For their individuality. Because I have no right to expect everyone to be as abnormal as me.