At our meeting with the school superintendent about the shortened lunch periods, one parent self-deprecatingly identified herself a “left-winger,” and the superintendent got a laugh by responding, “You’re not going to throw a bomb, are you?” I saw it a harmless joke, but the woman was annoyed by it. The superintendent, after all, was the one ultimately responsible for the fact that the kids were getting only fifteen minutes for lunch, and here she was, just trying to see that her kids get reasonably humane treatment in the place they’re confined to for over six hours a day -- but she’s the one who might be a bomb-thrower.
When Indie asked about my opinion on Sudbury schools, I certainly wasn’t annoyed -- in fact, it prompted me to write a lengthy post. But at the same time, my real first reaction to a question like that one is a kind of frustration. All I want is for the schools to treat the kids humanely. I want them not to treat the kids like conscripted soldiers in a global economic war, or like animals in some behaviorist’s laboratory. I want them to respect the kids as people, to engage their minds and not just elicit unthinking responses, and to coerce them only to the degree that it is demonstrably in their interest. I want them to be conscious of the values that they are conveying by the way they treat the kids. Yet when I make those arguments, the response is often along the lines of: “Have you considered homeschooling?” or “What are your thoughts about Sudbury schools?” -- which are both good questions, but are also a nice way of saying, “You are a fringe radical, and you are crazy to think that a public school will ever reflect those qualities.”
It’s as if I suggested that a progressive income tax is a fair way to raise revenue, and everyone responded, “Have you read Karl Marx?” (Actually, that does seem to describe a lot of today’s political “debate.”)
But apparently if I support teaching methods like this, or this, or this, or this, or this, or this -- then I’m squarely in the mainstream.