On my way out of an urban elementary school building, I see three 7 year old boys walking in single file down the hallway with their hands behind their backs like handcuffed prisoners with a teacher barking at them--"'Bye'. Is that a short 'i' or a long 'i?" This is the rule of the behavior management program the school uses--not the worst of them, either. 4 year olds in that school must now reach 'level 4 reading' which is word recognition and phonics instead of playing with the blocks, dress-up and sand table. 6 year olds are suspended for their disruptive behaviors. Is it possible their disruption is an instinctual political act against an oppressive system? Now the school has instituted a "pause' room--or what you might call "pre-jail," for the many kids who aren't being controlled in class. I am on my way to a secondary school, nationally recognized for preparing all students for college, now torn apart in the name of comparative test score growth.
I tell my colleagues who are losing steam that this could be our archetypal struggle like the French Revolution or the Civil Rights movement---the ongoing fight for justice and equity. But mostly, I feel like Alice in Wonderland, wandering through a world of unexplainable chaos.
I want to turn away--find a way back up the rabbit hole. And yet I can’t. Even if I could afford to stop working, I am haunted by the distress in those three boys' eyes. What would President Obama say if he saw those little guys who look like Trayvon Martin, who ‘could have been [his] son,’ not even trusted to walk down a hallway side by side with their arms free to swing for healthy body balance?
We are so far off course for raising our children for life while drilling them on isolated bits of skills. I rely on knowing I am not alone. "A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved." ~Kurt Vonnegut