I’ve been talking about my and my husband’s experiences with education — mine, overwhelmingly positive, and his, overwhelmingly negative. Here, I’m offering a few reflections on them together, and how they have influenced our thoughts on how we want to educate our daughter. If you’re just tuning in now, the conversation began here.
I don’t regret my education one iota.
Without a doubt, I learned a lot of incredibly valuable stuff during my time in public school. I learned things I never would have been able to learn from my family, since my own parents, raised as nomadic Old Colony Mennonites, got almost no formal education themselves.
Because of public education, I can read and write and solve fairly complex math problems – things my own parents struggle to do.
I also learned many things in public school that were interesting, enriching, useful, and beneficial.
Because of my public education, I was able to attend university, which profoundly shaped the person I am today. I was exposed to more good literature than I could have imagined possible, as well as ideas and ways of thinking that have become an integral part of my identity.
At university, I got to know God. I read so much good theology via English literature, which drew me into a more intimate relationship with the living God – more than any church sermon ever did. For that I am eternally grateful.
That being said, I also learned and internalized many harmful things during my years in public education:
- That people like me – methodical, critical, studious types who are good at using words — are superior to other people, especially those who have difficulty focusing or following instructions, and those who have trouble expressing themselves in words.
- That things are only worth doing of they will be seen and evaluated by an authority figure.
- That listening to and obeying instructions are more important than inventing and experimenting (especially if those experiments and inventions don’t end up being “productive”).
- That math, reading, writing, and science are more important than art, dance, and housekeeping
- That the purpose of education is to get a good-paying job, and that the point of learning is to make oneself marketable.
One of my many qualms with my education is the fact that it didn’t prepare me for the real world. Not really. It didn’t help me learn how to budget or preserve food or raise a family. All those things, which I use on a daily basis, I learned at home from my mom.
(But I did learn trigonometry, thank God. I have used it exactly once).
Not only that, but my education didn’t even equip me to earn a decent wage. At my last job I made $11 an hour – barely more than my friends working the drive-through at Tim Horton’s – and my boss wished I would drop dead, I was so lousy at my job. (Remember, I have six years of post-secondary education to my name.)
(Part of the problem is that in today’s quickly-changing world, we have no way of knowing what today’s children are going to need to know in twenty years. So standardized curriculum hardly seems like the right answer for equipping tomorrow’s workers.)
So here I am today, a wildly successful scholar, ten years after graduating high school: I’m a stay-at-home mom who struggles to manage the home with only one kid. I write a blog with just over a hundred fans on Facebook and make exactly zero dollars a year. I’m proud of my accomplishment – really, I am – and I adore my chosen vocation as a mother and homemaker. But it’s hardly the illustrious career my teachers would have predicted. I sometimes wonder if – on a practical level alone – some of those years writing essays wouldn’t have been better spent doing something a little more . . .useful.
All those accolades from my teachers growing up ended up meaning very little. I may be able to parse a poem, but in almost every important respect I’m remarkably useless.
And I sometimes worry that after all those years in school, my capacity for creativity and originality has been irreparably damaged.
And as for Ben: he doesn’t regret his education, either; but he still has to work hard to unlearn the things he learned about himself in the classroom – that he’s not very bright, that he’s a poor reader, that he’s too dull to hang out with “smart” people like professors and accountants. Those are hard things to wipe clean from your subconscious.
* * *
I’m already quite certain that Lydia would flourish in a public school setting, just like I did. She’ll likely be very much like me, and less like her dad. All my aunts say she looks and acts just like me as a baby. She seems to be hitting her milestones at exactly the same rate that I did. And I parent very much like my own mother – only I have about 18 years more formal education than she has, so Lydia’s got an edge on even me.
Plus, school tends to be a more welcoming environment for girls than boys.
But I’m not sure how much I want to send my daughter to a place that will (likely) tell her she’s better than everyone else, while failing to teach her important life skills, like how to budget, cook, or clean. (Not that only girls need to learn these skills. Boys need to learn them, too. These are human life skills, which are severely lacking in the younger generations).
There are a number of other quarrels I have with classroom-style education, and I’ll wrap up my thoughts in my next (and final! . . . probably) post on the subject.
image courtesy of evmaiden.