A week or two ago, I wrote a post which shared a few thoughts, quotes and links on politics, education, ideas and thoughts which resonate with me.  I’d like to do this on a regular basis… perhaps every Monday.  Every week,  I stumble upon so many interesting nuggets – and as a way of keeping track of everything (and perhaps – of not being such a scaredy-cat and worrying too much about what you will think of me) – I thought I’d share them in a regular post.

The first instalment is here (just scroll past the initial blurb).

This week, I’ve been pondering on….

1.  Dumbing us Down by John Taylor Gatto

I found this book in a Barnes & Noble in Washington DC and I’ve been devouring it ever since.  John Taylor Gatto was a teacher in New York City’s public schools for over 30 years and is a recipient of the New York City Teacher of the Year award and New York State Teacher of the Year.  John’s book has been beautifully articulating what I have ‘felt’ for such a long time – but have been unable to adequately express or explain.  I want to keep a couple of copies of his book in my bag – and the next time someone interrogates me about our decision not to send our kids to school, I’ll like to hand them a copy of this book and say:  “Among many other reasons, this is why!”.

On that same note, a friend of mine recently posted this quote on my Facebook page:

WHAT DOES SCHOOL REALLY TEACH CHILDREN?

  • Truth comes from authority.
  • Intelligence is the ability to remember and repeat.
  • Accurate memory and repetition are rewarded.
  • Non-compliance is punished.

I don’t know about you, but I can certainly relate with the sentences above.  That’s what my schooling taught me…. (and I’m still trying to “unlearn” those lessons – especially the first one).  On a similar note, John Taylor Gatto writes in his book:

“I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my thirty years of teaching:  schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet.  No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science class or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes.  The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders.  This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions.  Although teachers do care and do work very, very hard, the institution is psychopathic – it has no conscience”.

Morgan and Joah learning about various minerals (and microscopes) at the Natural History Museum in Washington DC...

Morgan and Joah learning about various minerals (and microscopes) at the Natural History Museum in Washington DC…

2.  Free-Range Kids

The tag-line to this website & online resource is this:  “Fighting the belief that our children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers and/or the perils of a non-organic grape”.

There seems to be a lot of fear permeating our culture – and especially when it comes to kids.  Don’t get me wrong, as a mother I am very protective of my children and it’s important to me that they make sensible decisions with their life.  Of course I don’t want them to be hurt or harmed.  Of course I don’t want them to trust bad people.  But – at the same time – I also don’t want them to be fearful… and mistrustful of everyone… and too scared to take risks, go on adventures, meet new people or to try new things.

Right now, both of my kids are pretty fearless.  They’ll hurtle head first into the sea… they’ll jump into the deep end of a swimming pool or a river(even though neither one of them are strong swimmers yet)… they’ll sign up for the fastest “grown up” rides at the theme park (where Joah just barely scrapes by on the height measuring stick)… they’ll volunteer to walk through the dark Scare-House on Halloween – and then they’ll sleep in the dark without a night light… they’ll strap themselves into a harness so they can jump the height of the 4-storey ceiling… they’ll play with spiders, snakes and bugs… they are both keen to experiment – and try anything…

… and I LOVE this about them.  I love that they are fearless little creatures – ready, willing and chomping at the bit to take on the world…

As a parent, this often means I have to be extra-vigilant.  If we’re anywhere near water, I keep an eagle-eye trained on them (or I swim with them… or I put a life-jacket on Joah).  If they want to play with an unidentified spider or to sample a berry from a tree – they both know they need to check with me first.  When it comes to strangers… I want my kids to talk to strangers.  How horrible to instil a sense of fear into young children so that they learn to believe that everyone is out to hurt them, kidnap them or do them harm… it just isn’t true!

I want my kids to greet the lady at the checkout counter…  I want them to speak to the waiter that serves them and to order their own meals… I want them to approach someone for help – or to ask a question – or to ask for directions.   I do NOT want my kids to be fearful of people.

I have told them both that they can talk to strangers… but they’re not to go anywhere with a stranger (unless I’m aware of the arrangement)… or to accept any gifts from a stranger (unless I’m present).  But talk?  Absolutely!

Free-Range Kids is a great website.  They use loads of accurate data (about relevant threats towards children) – and take all the hocus-pocus old-wives-tale crap out of all the fear-mongering going on.  Statistically speaking, for example,  our children have a far – FAR – greater risk of being maimed or killed in a car accident than kidnapped by a stranger… but you don’t see parents refusing to drive their children in a car.  But – omigosh – send the 8 year old off to the public bathroom on her own… and everyone’s all tut-tutting and super-concerned about “The Perverts” who are supposedly lurking behind every corner, waiting to whisk her away.

I’m not buying into the fear mongering.

Fear doesn’t keep you safe from the monsters.  Fear IS the monster.  Fear doesn’t “save” your life.  It steals your life.

Anyhoo…

So, there’s my two (potentially) controversial… (depending on who reads this post)… opinions of the day.

Monday musings…  🙂

I’ll write again from Georgia…