I am NOT ready to go back to school. I want to stay right here in THE REAL WORLD.
I was reminded of the many worlds we inhabit last weekend when I somehow stepped off a perfectly good spot against the wall at a cocktail party into a spiraling vortex of darkness of my own making: attempting small talk about schools.
The very thought of having to deal with teachers, administrators, No Child Left Behind and all the other complexities that come with herding; not to mention having to have six, sharpened pencils; three pens; four binders; two theme composition books; a scientific calculator; a package of markers; two Pink Pearl erasers AND a rectangular-shaped box of Kleenex gives me chills.
No, I am not ready to leave the REAL WORLD and return to a place where irrational numbers actually make sense to someone.
You know The Real World — that mythical place our parents and teachers warned us would be none-too hospitable if we didn’t know how do any number of menial tasks from reading to chewing with our mouths closed.
In the Real World a person would be doomed to living life under a bridge if they don't learn how to balance a checkbook, or memorize Pi to the tune of 17 numerical stops. In the Real World spell checkers may save your sorry illiterate soul but they won't make you Chaucer of the e-mail message. In the Real World it might be helpful to know who was the Ninth President off the cuff, but Google and your Blackberry have your back should the need to know who served the least amount of time in the Oval Office arises.
These conversations never start innocently. The topic of education is rife with potential pitfalls. Teachers don’t get paid enough. They get paid too much. Parents don't care about their kids. Parents are over protective of their kids. There aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done. Everyone has too much free time on their hands.
When kids get into The Real World, the thought is, they will not be ready for the workplace. They are not prepared for life. And some one is to blame.
Nobody knows what the solutions are but everyone can point to a problem and person who bears responsibility.
So there I am, standing with my vacant stare (all mothers in some way or other can relate to that one I think) next to the cheese plate when someone shoots off their mouth about 'kids today' and the fog in my head evaporates.
"You know, I really don’t think there is a problem with kids today. I think the problem with education is really a red herring.
"We educate everyone. Most countries don’t. And let's face it, not everyone is a rocket scientist. Not everyone is going to Harvard or Yale.
"When we rail against the kid in class who is disruptive – That kid who ends up sitting outside the principal’s office four days out of five - we don't stop to think that that kid is talked about in the staff rooms, his record follows him and his behavior, in turn, becomes a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.
"Why don't we think of children as innocent and perfect after they are toilet trained?
"Why don't we call ourselves the problem?
"When a student is acting out, why do we rush to labels and intervention and medication?
"Why does that kid get labeled and tracked? Why do we not try different things to get that kid back?
"Why? Because the teachers have 30 students and just as many mandates.
"Why? Because it’s easier to get people to fit into a mold.
"Why? Because as a society we all have to follow rules.
"Why? Because IT’S NOT FAIR to someone who's really working hard.
"And I guess I say to that: Life isn't fair.
"Seriously, look around you. There's someone in your office slacking off, just like in school. There’s someone you detest. There's someone who someone else is always talking about: 'In A Real Office, so-and-so would NEVER get away with that. A Real Office would NEVER put up with …'"
I stopped ranting for a moment and looked around me. … "They'd all moved away from me on the bench, there, glary eyeball and all kinds of mean, nasty, ugly things. ... "
Then it occurred to me:
I never really did find The Real World all those people warned me about. Everything I really needed to know I learned in Kindergarten, and for all else there's Google.