Friday, November 05, 2010
“Are you on any waiting lists?” my friend asks me when the topic of Isaac's school choices comes up.
“What waiting lists should I be on?”
“I don't know. It just seems like when people discuss schools, they're on waiting lists.”
This is how we talk about education these days.
Mike recently posted his class picture from kindergarten on Facebook to much acclaim. Mike is not one of these people who has a million Facebook friends, or, for that matter, who spends much time on Facebook. At all. So when 20 extensive comments showed up following that shot of a bunch of five- and six-year-olds in dorky plaids and collars to their elbows, it spoke of something significant.
People's comments read like a theater usher's directions: “Third from the left, bottom row, next to the pillar– is that Dawn Shields???!!”
There was discussion about the spellings of names, about the parents of the little fashionistas and which of them may or may not have served as den mothers and scout leaders. There was an ongoing volley about one of the classmates and her battle with cancer. The excitement in the banter (cancer aside) was palpable. There was a liberal use of punctuation – ellipses, dashes and question marks, perhaps followed by an entire row of exclamation points. In other words, it was a scene, man.
If Mike's little FB experience is any indication, who you hang with around the art table, the first bunch of people you wrestle with for your turn at the water fountain, create a lasting impression. No one talked about math lessons or reading circles. They talked about who they were in relation to each other. The social ins and outs. The personal hurts and triumphs.
We search for the right “academic” environment to set down our little people. We rank schools based on test scores. I suppose because it's measurable and this other stuff is messy. When did we decide we don't have the time for messy? Who's getting in the sandbox with me?
Look. We are fucked up as a people. But it wasn't always so. We used to be them – the kids – innocent, joyful. We have the power to help them. Furthermore, there is potential for them to help us.
A scruffy-faced man in slouchy, dirty jeans and a ballcap that reads “Go to the Edge” walks into the sports center pool area. He looks tired. Truth be told, he looks even a bit frightening. Except that he is flanked by two little girls, each grasping one of his rough hairy paws. They are probably around three and six. They are golden-haired with purple butterfly clips in their curls. Both wear pink bathing suits, the younger one's complete with tutu bouncing about on her tiny hips. He grins down at them and they bound away for the water. As context, these little girls change everything about the scene. They presumably share the genes of this hulking scrap heap of a man, or more to the point, he shares theirs. Somewhere inside him there is something this delicate. Something precious. There is a pink tutu. I just know it.