Monday, March 2, 2015

Treating our Children Like Criminals

Did you know that in most school districts across the nation, if your child misses more than a few days of class, they are automatically deemed to have failed the class?  Its one of those ridiculous "zero tolerance" rules that saves the very adults in our society who are entrusted to teach critical thinking skills to our children the burden of actually having to think critically themselves.

So, what is the underlying assumption in this absence policy?  Simply, your child is universally better off if s/he attends class.  Really?  Reflect on your time in school and tell me that you are better off for having sat in every single one of your classes or activities,

What if that class or activity is lead by an unprepared, uncommitted teacher/coach/minister?  What then? Yes, your child will still fail for choosing to do something more productive - even if it is to sit in the car and smoke a joint.  The benefit of doubt is universally awarded - earned or unearned - to the adult. The presumption is so engrained, we even have words for it - words like "elder" and "respect" - both of which have one-way definitions.

What if your child was out in the real world doing something of far greater value than watching the Disney animated version of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" IN ENGLISH as a French culture lesson - every day for a week?  And then in the following week, repeat the same activity with a different movie, this time Ratatouille, again in English - even though a French dubbed version is available.

Let's be honest.  There are two real reasons we have all these discipline issues - which create discipline rules, which create more issues, which create more rules - and neither of them have much to do with our kids.  

The first is that we simply don't trust our children because we are afraid that what they do will make us look bad.  We expect them to magically grope for boundaries, find themselves, "grow up" and discover their world under our care without ever doing something stupid or regrettable.  We react to the potential for being embarrassed fearfully, so we set unreasonable restrictions to which no un-coerced adult-to-be in their right minds would ever willingly agree.  Then, when they "act out" we turn teachable moments into criminal offenses.  We reinforce the message that they need to learn how to grope for their boundaries in way that allows us to be shielded by ignorance or at a minimum, be able to claim ignorance.

The second reason adults create this one-way power dynamic is that these "we-decide-what-is-important-rules" is our own need for self-validation.  If you can learn what you need to learn without actually being in school/church/home then school/church/home is pretty irrelevant, isn't it?

Some adults, including teachers, coaches and ministers understand this and work to create growth environments for children.  Some of us eventually see the error of our ways but don't have a clue about how to fix it.  Some live a whole lifetime without ever understanding this - or refusing to admit that they see it.

There really isn't an effective way of communicating "You know that culture of fear I brought you up in, I was wrong.  Please forget what you know."  So, we either mindlessly or hopelessly press on undaunted in our race to the bottom, busily creating the next hopeless and fearful generation.  All but a few of us base our actions in our fear and assume that any variation from the very lives we wish we could change for ourselves constitutes nothing more than an act of disobedient anarchy that needs to be legislated and litigated in a court in which we are the sole judge and jury.

We treat our children like criminals and then we're completely surprised when they learn to behave like criminals.  

We are stupid.

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