The dirty birds of political correctness and feel-good leftism have come home to roost, and the results are grim as well as predictable.
I was fortunate enough in some ways to grow up in a sort of cultural backwater. In the 1970s and 1980s the leftist devolution of American society hadn’t really taken hold in the tiny towns. It was still OK to pray in school. The whole town was scandalized when it became permissible for girls to wear pants to school if they chose (this was the late 1970s.)
Given the dreadful thick, itchy, badly patterned, hot polyester that was popular in the 1970s, it was almost better to wear a dress, but then you had to wear tights, which were almost as bad as these pants- they were hot, itchy, and didn’t stay up, so the crotch would be at your knees by the end of the day no matter what you did to try to keep them up.
When I was in elementary school, kids were expected to say the Pledge in the morning, unless their parents sent them a note excusing them from it. I remember one poor Jehovah’s Witness kid who had to sit out the Pledge in the hall, which made no sense because the principal always had a student of the day read it over the PA system for the whole school, including the halls, to hear. I don’t think he understood his parents’ objection to the Pledge any more than he enjoyed being teased for having to sit it out.
Now the kids in public schools have to endure the dreadful Common Core curriculum that teaches to standardized tests (forget about critical or analytical thinking, learning at one’s own pace, or learning subject matter that isn’t included in the pre-fabbed one-size-fits-none test box) and to the religion (and yes, it is a religion of sorts) of secular humanism.
Even atheism, in its tenacious and oft irrational hanging onto a belief that there can be no God, is its own religion. Living under the assertion that there is no God may be a poor belief system, but it’s a belief system nonetheless.
I remember in third grade I was told to “stay behind with the rest of the class,” and I resent that directive to this day. I absolutely hated it when the teacher would have the kids read a paragraph at a time out loud in class. I’m hyperlexic, which means (among other things) that I speed read. Constantly. Compulsively. It is very difficult for me to stay awake– forget staying focused- when other people are reading aloud, painfully slowly, in a monotone voice. By the time my turn would roll around I was usually three or four chapters ahead.
Usually I was a good enough multitasker to flip right back to the paragraph the class was currently reading in time to read my assigned lines without being noticed, but this particular day I was more scattered than normal, and the kids reading before me were even more tedious and hesitating and monotone than normal. It took me a few seconds to scan back to the paragraph the teacher expected me to read, which didn’t sit well with her.
I think elementary school teachers really hated me for a number of reasons. I didn’t fit into the box. I didn’t adhere to the normal template of child development that they learned in college. I freaked them out with my vocabulary. I alienated them with my avoidance of eye contact and repulsed them with my intense reactions to fear- but more than that, I simply didn’t follow the paradigm. I couldn’t identify the paradigm, let alone follow it, and even at 47 I struggle with keeping up the semblance of “normal.”
When you’re a kid, autism kind of sucks- because you haven’t had a chance to learn the scripts that can help you navigate through the world of “normal.” Those scripts come naturally for most, but people like me have to learn and memorize and practice those social scripts until they become habit. You know you’re different, they know you’re different, and until you learn how to play the social game to your advantage, you pay (dearly) for that nonconformity.
Of course at first, doing things differently than other people wasn’t a conscious choice. I speed read. I have my own road map. I am extremely pragmatic and rational in the way I approach life. There’s nothing I can (or want to) do about the way I’m wired, and I have come to the conclusion that staying behind is just not a viable option for me.
What is disturbing to me about collective education is that teaching to a group discourages individual excellence. I understand that teaching to a norm is going to reach the greatest percentage of kids, but what about those that deviate from the mean? Much has been done- in fact too much- to address those who can’t or won’t meet the basic standards. Lowering the standard is not a good answer, although for funding and other reasons, lower standards seem to make politicians happier.
The kids who are capable of excellence generally do what I did. I coasted. I partied, though very clandestinely. I multitasked, and I read a lot of Mad magazines as well as Stephen King novels, history and scientific non-fiction, and not a few books that would have been porn had they been illustrated. I read a lot of extra curricular material in study halls as well as in class. I was quiet and did well on tests, so I was pretty much left alone, even though some days- I admit it, I was stoned or hung over or both. By that time the teachers had better things to worry about than the weird loner in the corner who aces tests but doesn’t talk much.
Even with my somewhat laissez-faire approach in high school, I graduated with a 4.1 average, thanks to taking some weighted courses to offset my rather average mathematical aptitude. For the life of me, higher math, or at least the way it was taught, simply didn’t make much sense.