My son usually puts up a pretty good argument. I’m thinking his aversion to math may be a clue he should go into law. However, his inexperience and lack of judgment in human behavior at this young age is readily apparent. Every day before I drop him off at his disappointingly lackluster charter school, which is a failed experiment created for reasons I suspect were not entirely educationally motivated, he attempts to convince me that he does not need to go to school because it is a waste of time. Knowing what I know now, he is absolutely correct, but I can’t tell him that just yet. And God forbid he ever finds out some of the most successful business people in the world dropped out of college. All 50+ American school systems, each run by its respective state or territory, are a terribly misguided, ineffective preparation for anything he will face in his adult life. Every single day, I consider pulling him out and home schooling him, but I hesitate. He needs to learn how to read people. How to interact efficiently. How to lose gracefully. How to blend like a chameleon. And how to win at everything. The cliquish and elitist groups created by typical home-school parents, especially in this twisted little community of military retirees, antisocial engineers, and mail-order Asian wives aren’t representative of the real world. So it’s off to school you go.
That particular morning, I attempted to shift the conversation to something more constructive. I asked him what he would change if he could change the school system. He was silent for a moment as he collected his thoughts, always a wise move. The first thing he would do was remove algebra from the curriculum. He asked what he will ever use algebra for in the real world. I struggled to find an explanation, outside of teaching or complex jobs in space, transportation, energy, electronics, or some other physics-related thing. Besides, computers now calculate these mathematical problems with far less errors than humans ever could.
He asked why we couldn’t retool education and teach things that people actually use in real life. I heard echoes of my prior sermons in those words – I was pleased he was listening. I attempted to explain why by comparing our nationwide school system against a smaller one. Think about a small boat attempting to make a 180° turn, hoping to invoke some of the upcoming geometry lessons he’ll hate next year. Then imagine a cruise ship making the same turn. I asked which would be able to turn around quicker. He correctly stated the smaller boat because it has a smaller size. But why? It would take a lot more energy to turn the big boat around, and it needs a lot more space and time. He was correct, but the biggest problem was the resistance from the water which would require additional space, time, and energy. The key word is resistance.
When a government body sets up a program, there’s a tremendous amount of time, effort and money that goes into that program. What we don’t see as voters is the back-end of these programs. The number of and connections of the people who were hired to implement these programs, many of which have some sort of business relationship or friendship with the administrators who are responsible for the executing the program. Many of these people make a tremendous amount of money being vendors for the programs the politicians put in place. If you try to change those programs, inevitably the vendors will be affected financially. If the vendors are affected, their campaign contributions and political relationships will also be affected. And that leaves little incentive for any politician to change anything. My son began to put things together.
He asked what about charter schools? Charter schools were created with a theory that since they’re in a smaller boat, they could change things with less resistance, perhaps as an experiment to test and prove new concepts to the larger school systems. However, the more I learn about charter schools, I realized many of these too were set up by people with financial motives. What has happened now is we have effectively doubled or even tripled the amount of vendors who now serve education, and we have run into the same or even more resistance we experience with a larger system.
My kid began to realize that change isn’t easy.
When my boy becomes an adult, he will have to make a decision. Live a vow of poverty and frustration while working against tremendous resistance and attempt to change things for the greater good, or follow the path of least resistance and play by established rules, trying to grab as much money as you can collect. I’m planted somewhere in the middle, playing both sides like a double agent. And it’s hard. And frustrating. And I’m angry as hell at my fellow humans. I can’t tell him what to do – that would be potentially devastating. But as a parent, it is my responsibility to teach him all sides of the equation, enabling him to make his own educated choice, and to support him as best I can regardless of that choice.
But I smell a fighter. I can read people with an uncanny accuracy, and I see fire in this boy’s eyes. When he’s ready, he will be devastatingly powerful. School vendors and your political pals, you’d better begin looking for a new line of work.
Lookout change, here he comes.