Have you ever seen a therapist or a counselor? Does your employer have workplace policies that protect you from isms (ageism, sexism, racism, etc.) or undue physical hardship (excessive hours, moving heavy objects, etc.)? Are you able to take a day (or a few days) off if some thing personal comes up? Are there advocacy groups to support you if you feel in some way wronged by your employer, or if your life is in some kind of stress or distress?
Despite all this "help," many of us will come home after a tough day at the office and feel horrible, exhausted, drained, and just ...done. How often have you heard (or said) the words, “I need a drink”??
Adults have advantages: we are mature, we have freedoms, we can speak for ourselves, we have advocates and advocacy groups, there are laws that protect us, and perpetrators of “bad” behavior are prosecuted or sued everyday. Lawyers who specialize in these issues are prolific, and work on a pure contingency basis - caring for adults is a thriving business.
While it’s disappointing that all this is needed, at least we have access to support, friendly ears, and recourse.
What about our children?
They have access to a fraction of the resources or recourses that we do; they even have fewer legal rights! Worse, they’re going through one of the most difficult things in the world - transitioning from child to adult - puberty, growing pains, emotional transformation and upheaval, sexual awakening, first loves, responsibility...
Add to this, middle and high school are pivotal to their one (really only) ticket to happiness, good health, and independence in life. Without a great education, their destinies are ...uncertain at best.
Stress, complication, emotional overload, difficulty, rule changes, a persistent feeling of powerlessness. This is what confronts children in our society.
Talk about pressure.
Who is their advocate?
- Parents? Nope - most parents delegate their children's upbringing to school as soon as they're in full-time school. More often than not, they side with the “system,” telling the child it was much tougher when they were growing up.
- Teachers? Nope - they are similarly victimized by a system that mandates ridiculous measures of performance, absurd outcomes, embarrassing working conditions for relatively little pay, and lately, a ton of social vilification.
- Government? Nope - kids don’t vote.
- The legal system? Nope - it’s almost impossible to sue the government or a school. They are happy to sue teachers (who are the vogue target these days), but nothing else gets any traction, and teachers are broke anyway.
- The media? Nope - they love to hype stories of bullying, suicides, other abuse, but they don’t do anything about it or cause others to change.
Humans are designed to forget the worst experiences we have - otherwise no woman would give birth to a second child. Teenagehood is not a happy time, but once past it, our memories become very selective. As proof, think of how many times you said, “I’ll NEVER be like them [parents/adults] when I grow up.” And then...
Adults (even parents) may not remember or even understand what it is like to be a teen/student; BUT they are CONVINCED they know what’s right for kids, what they need, and how best to help them become adults.
So here’s what we (adults) have decided is the optimal approach to “educating” children:
- At the beginning of each year, they are notified of the school rules [you *must* click this link (note: this is for middle school)!], which presume every child is a cheating, lazy, misanthropic vandal. Animals are held in higher regard and given more love and understanding. [If you treat impressionable kids like criminals, how do you expect them to behave? Is it any wonder bullying, delinquency, etc. are on the rise?]
- Each student in a grade is assumed to come in with same knowledge, context, motivation and home life, and expected to learn the same thing at the same time and in the same way. There is no room for individuality; there is no tolerance for “deviants.” [If they had their way, I think Education America would prefer every student to enter the factory as powdered potatoes and exit as identical, extruded McDonald’s fries/graduates.]
- They must wake up at 6:30AM and be sitting in class by 7:30AM. Most walk through metal detectors, into buildings that more closely resemble factories or prisons; all are assessed for attendance and dress code. [Do you need a jolt of caffeine so you can face the morning? Do you feed your 6-year old a shot of Red Bull before school? "Of course not - that would be horrible and cruel! How dare you!" And yet you expect them to learn things at 7:30AM.]
- Sit with 29 others in a room designed for fewer, where they are required to be attentive (silent), docile, take copious notes, and speak only when spoken to. [Schools, like prisons are designed to control and monitor the population, not to enable learning.]
- Change rooms every 50 minutes, "enjoying" a steady stream of lectures covering new and altogether unrelated topics, and of course, be assigned copious quantities of homework. [Are you able to learn so many new and disconnected things everyday, with just a break for lunch (crappy food) and then pass the tests??]
- “Learning” is measured by completion of homework assignments and of course lots and lots of tests. In all cases, students are judged individually - teachers are required to be vigilant in preventing plagiarism, cheating, and other bad acts. [When’s the last time you took a test that judged your whole year as a success or failure?]
- The children are required to carry 15-20lb packs containing expensive and outdated textbooks to and from school. [Workforce rules protect most adults from carrying this much weight every day. But not so for our children and their growing bodies.]
- Adults in "higher" institutions have deemed that grades alone wont get a student into their university - they need a gazillion extra curricular activities, to be a volunteer, have interned somewhere, and written an essay begging to be considered for admission. And if the gods smile and they are accepted, they have the privilege of graduating just slightly more educated, saddled with at least $75k in debt because of the exorbitant tuition.
So this is the best way to prepare our children for adulthood during their already difficult growing years. Who knew?
But wait, there’s more! Shrinking federal, state, and local budgets have resulted in teacher layoffs, equipment reductions (no more labs), increased class sizes, school closures, elimination of most “non-core” classes (arts, phys-ed, clubs, etc.), the killing of recess (yes, recess!), and even guidance counselor layoffs in middle schools.
Adult feelings, wants, needs, and satisfaction are routinely surveyed by our bosses, who at least try to be responsive. When is the last time a school district asked its students how they like to learn, or what environment is most conducive to learning? And if they did deign to ask, did they actually listen, much less change??
Abuse is defined as "any action that intentionally harms or injures another person."
It is time that America admitted that her 50 million public school students are victims of wide-spread, systemic child abuse.
Do you recognize these words?
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
I bet the younger amongst us will. When, I wonder will they heed them and declare their independence from us despots??
As for me, all this typing has really stressed me out, and I’m feeling a tad overwhelmed. I'm going to visit my therapist, get a massage, have a martini or three, and then take a few days off...