Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The School Idea

When I was younger (ah hah) I fantasized about creating a school. This was in college, and as someone who had been in school since 21-months of age, I had begun to realize that the education I was waiting for was never going to arrive.

The entire premise of The School was that academic studies would be balanced with practical application that supported the institution and, yes, brought in money. Like, if you were teaching the arts, you'd put on shows. I was at UCLA at the time and it amazed me how little cooperation there was not just between the various disciplines, like art and music, but within just the music department itself. For example, if you're teaching music history, you have people listening to recordings of Gregorian chant and what-not, but those chants are never actually sung by the choir.

I thought this could extend nicely to occupational work, too, and you could end up with a largely self-sufficient school that provided a really broad experience to all the kids while also letting them get deep into their preferred subjects.

The various *-studies-type programs were just taking off back then; I don't think you could major in them. They were more points-of-interest than vocations. They wouldn't survive in this model, except through people who had a strong interest in them and were willing to work hard in other areas to support that interest.

The thing that stuck with me back then was the insurance. Inevitably some kind would get hurt and that would be that.

Newt Gingrich's comments about kids being janitors, cafeteria workers and clerks put me in mind of this.

There is a faction in this society that is dead set against kids working, like working is some horrible thing that adults have to do, and people should be spared it as long as possible. And I think this probably indicates that, you know, they feel that way about their lives and jobs.

But the side-effect of this has been to create adolescence. Wild teens. Juvenile delinquency.

As horrible as it is to communists, our sense of self-worth as human beings utterly depends on exchange. We value ourselves to the extent that we can produce things that other people want. And in a cruel trick of nature, we start out with very little to give and in tremendous need of help.

A lot of what is mistakenly perceived as attention-seeking in children is just their attempt to entertain. The parent who dismisses this shuts off an avenue for the child to pay back.

What's also difficult is the custodian-ship of the child's development into a genuinely helpful member of the family (and society). At first, when they "help", it's more work (sometimes a LOT more) than if they don't. (If I helped my mom clean up, she'd tell me how good I'd done, and then do it over. Heh.)

My kids aren't much like me. The Boy is very money-minded. Last year (at 15) he got a job (programming), and he's been walking dogs in the neighborhood. He's almost finished a pen-and-paper RPG he's going to try to build something around. He's been in college for a few semesters, primarily business and economics classes.

The Flower's industriousness is astounding. For money (and we pay her well), she cleans the dog stuff out of the backyard.  For fun, she cleans the bathroom or the bedroom or the living room or the closet. She makes and sells her own wallets. She works for The Boy—he's programming a game and she's doing the art.

The Barbarienne, on the other hand? She's young yet, but I sense a different mind-set in her. (Probably closer to my own, growing up, than either The Boy or The Flower.) She's definitely more difficult to mentor through things.

They would all have benefited from the school I imagined as a young man, but I was too busy having them to build it.

Plus, you know: Insurance.

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