Saturday, January 29, 2011

Designer Children

JGH over at Nyack Backyard wrote a piece recently on the new documentary, Race to Nowhere, and it got me thinking about the driven moms in our little town who feel the need to design their off-spring’s future…map it out and drag them along the path to success.

When I first met Ms. Super Care Mom she told me how to DO IT. “What I have is a file…it is really very simple. Every time Princess Perfect volunteers, is mentioned in the newspaper, joins a club, gets an award or performs in a play—I put it in the file and the whole file is handed into the guidance counselor at the end of the year to become part of her school dossier.

“That is amazing.” I said to the beaming mother. But I was thinking “Amazing the guidance counselor has not gone off the deep end dealing with these parents—she probably either has the patience of Job or is just circular filing this C.V. of teenage brilliance.

Ms. Super Care Mom knows all the tricks to push and pull your kid to the top of the heap and they are all based on good child psychology and strong-arming the school system administrators and teachers. It works and you can do it too, but do you want your child on the top of that heap?

The Man and I were raised in oddly similar laissez faire homes-- packed full of kids with parents who were more artistic than focused. We were fed, clothed and loved and then set loose on the world. There was not a lot of individual attention to FORMAL achievements, but rather constant encouragement to try new things…break rules... be independent.

The Beast and her close friends are, for the most part, unfettered by the chains of an over-scheduled life. Yet, they are busy. They make their own busy—they plan, they build, they create. Our mantra to The Beast has always been— “Try it, you may like it….broaden your horizons” And she does.

God help us when it comes time to do college essays—I am sure the child will decide to film some social media driven event or create street art in response to unseen poverty or whatever passion she is into at the moment rather than write the standard college brag essay.

But that is her and this is a new world.

We are no longer in the 1950’s—what is success today, will be not be tomorrow. As parents, we don’t know where our children's successes will lie, so we cannot give them detail directions how to get there. We can only give them the skills to navigate to find their way—to invent their own future and success.

To quote my favorite educator, Jean Piaget: "Education, for most people, means trying to lead the child to resemble the typical adult of his society . . . but for me and no one else, education means making creators. . . . You have to make inventors, innovators—not conformists"

1 comment:

The Beast said...

Wait... you can do things like that instead of writing an essay???

Im in!! :)