Sunday, November 20, 2016

We Built This

Something that's been gnawing at me since the election is this post from a local journalist I respect.
Look, I know we're all pretty much tired of the election but honestly this seems dumb. Dear college boys and girls, we'll all wake up and put our pants on and go about our business tomorrow no matter what happens tonight. Promise.

This was his introduction to an article entitled, "Universities help students cope with Election Day stress."
The comments that followed were the usual about "special snowflakes", "I wonder if they're potty-trained yet", "a generation of p***ies," "put your pants on and get to work," etc.
I respectfully suggested that there might be some reasons to be anxious, and that I didn't think it was helpful to roll our eyes at this state of affairs. The response:
They'll be fine. There's no instruction book for anything in life. We all navigated it in one form or another. It toughens you up a bit, not in bad ways.
And if they're not going to be ok, we might want to question what we've done with them in the first 18 years of their lives that caused them to be incapable of navigating life's little bumps and bruises.

Well, here we have a moment of agreement. "We might want to question what we've done with them in the first 18 years of their lives..."

Yeah, about that.

Let's talk about No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top which reduced education to teaching to the test. Let's talk about how only Reading and Math scores matter. So farewell to music, art, adequate recess, enough time to really eat your lunch. No more time for child-directed play in kindergarten. Can't waste instructional time on messy, hands-on projects in the elementary grades. 

We built this. 

Or rather, the people who voted to make our educational system work like this built this. Music, art, recess, yes, and even lunch, are opportunities for risk-taking, creative expression, social-emotional growth. Those experiences help children learn to try and fail in a safe environment, resolve disputes with others, get out physical and emotional tension through self-directed play and developmentally appropriate challenges.

Then in Middle and High School we pile on more work, more preparation for tests. We tell them that life is all about Grade Point Average, AP Classes, SAT scores. We make it all but impossible for them to choose classes or activities that might provide creative, physical, or emotional stability for them. It's all about the transcript. Don't do anything to jeopardize the transcript.

We have a generation that binge drinks Red Bull and Starbucks and has never been allowed to become fully human. And they get to college and add binge-drinking alcohol to the mix.

Please understand that they are at college without the benefit of all of those essential childhood experiences that you and I had, that helped us navigate. We sent them there without essential tools for self-regulation, resiliency, handling failure, handling interpersonal disputes. Because they aren't on the test, you know.

How can we sneer at a generation that has done only what was required of them? They didn't choose this. 

Teachers and child development experts been warning for a long time that there is a price to pay for stripping childhood of these crucial experiences. This is it. This is the price. They know how to cram for tests. They know how to get good scores. We told them that's all they would need.

Every child whose education was flattened and distorted has lost something valuable. These "special snowflakes", as some call them, will have to find a way to piece together what is missing. They don't really have a choice. And our society is going to be dealing with the repercussions of this for a long time to come.

Please spare me the "put your pants on and get to work" comments. These young people know how to work. 

They just don't know how to do anything else. 

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