My younger child’s complaints about school have been getting louder, lately. She still notes the absurd absence of challenge and the glacial pace of instruction, but she’s also added content critique.
For example, although an unfortunately large number of her classmates do not understand basic grammatical principles and tend to confuse their yours and you’res and their there’s and theirs, no one ever teaches these principles to them. Little Bit can punctuate circles around any other middle schooler because she has absorbed the rules through her years of voracious reading. Also, she’s MY kid. But she insists that at no time in her school career has any teacher delivered a lesson on apostrophes and their relationship to possession to her class.
Recently her most persistent complaint regards the Revolutionary War, which, unlike punctuation, the children have been forced to study every damn year. “We keep learning about the Revolution and World War II,” she tells me. “Never the Civil War. Never World War I. What was World War I even about? I have no idea.” Furthermore, “Why do we only learn about wars? Didn’t anything else happen in history?”
At that point I handed her a copy of Howard Zinn’s People’s History.
And really, what are wars ever about? A bunch of men with wiener issues committing mass slaughter to control whatever is available for controlling.
And then there are gender questions. Granted, Little Bit has been helped along this path by lifelong exposure to me as well as her much more radical elder sibling, but lately she’s been looking around with more mature and aware teenaged eyes and noting with some outrage the many ways, large and small, that the world seems to be tilted against people like her.
“Why?” she asks me. “Why is it like that?”
At that point I handed her a copy of Gerda Lerner’s Creation of Patriarchy.
I’m sorry, my beloved child, that I can’t fix any of this for you. Not a bit of it. I can’t change the curriculum. I can’t change the culture. All I can do is give you the resources to learn and change on your own. Give it your best shot