So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

03 September, 2007

Back to School

The other day, when my husband and I were in the checkout line at the grocery store, I spotted in the magazine rack a headline something like:

The Best Schools

It's never too soon to start stressing about your children's education!

You know what it was about? You know what it was fucking about?



He commented on, y'know, the whole encouragement of stress thing being not exactly a good idea.

I, on the other hand, did the hopping up and down thing about this insanity. Must be sure to get into the best preschools, or little Whoosie won't make it into Harvard! For goodness sakes. (When I went to preschool, all I remember is duck duck goose in the church playground and maybe hazy recollections of play-doh and celery.)

The article goes, "Mind you, we’re not endorsing this trend. That said, it seems to us that when it comes to your kid’s education, the if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em mindset is the only real option." Oh, yeah, they don't endorse the trend, of course, but it's never too early to stress about it all, and really, can you be sure you won't be horribly crippling your child's academic chances if you don't worry about it Right Now?

It's only about $10K a year on average, flipping through the listings. You can afford $10K for Your Child's Future, right?

And it's all of a piece with stuff I see elsewhere, not all of which I can chase down. I can find this 2000 article about the way homework can mess with kids' time to have family life; this article from Stanford in 2006 that indicates that homework in elementary school has no academic benefits linked from this blog post. Not to mention all the stuff people write about "No Child Left Behind"'s unintended consequences. This 2003 article suggests that this sort of education madness is not limited to the US. And the whole 'Gotta get into the right school' shows its effects in an apparently rather flawed book called The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids, which I note in part because damn, that was one of the schools we competed against in It's Academic, but mostly because this delusion of OMGMustBeDramaticallyAccomplished makes for madness.

I just ... bang my head on the desk. I'm not even terribly coherent about it. I mostly just get to jumping up and down about the damn stress injection into school. I remember the stress injection of school from back when I was going, back when I was being diligently taught the same horrible lessons that are now more important than ever, stuff like 'people will give you useless busywork, but if you're sharp enough you can coast around it (and you won't hit the wall until you're well past when you were supposed to pick up the skills for it)'; 'your value as a person is your accomplishment on a nice, mainstream educational track', 'doing well on the test matters more than understanding, enjoying, or valuing the knowledge' ....

Now with bonus madness! Because preschool isn't too soon for the parents to stress! And no parental stress ever communicates to the kids!

Augh. I wish this didn't infuriate me so much so I could write about it coherently. I'm just with the jumping up and down.

Happy freakin' September.


S.L. Bond said...


I'm a high school senior (kind of) this year. The situation is a seriously infuriating mess.

Unknown said...

It's been a fascinating experience *working* at That Sort Of School (no pre-school, but we do run PreK-12.)

I've read Robbins' book - while I think it has some flaws, I think she also makes some really good points: that the stress is destroying people (and not just the kids: it doesn't exactly do healthy things to the parents caught up in it either.)

There are ways to work around it. The school I work at is a high-stress environment - but there's also a very firm pressure on things like "We want you to find the right college for you, and we will *keep* guiding you that way" from a very highly qualified college counselling staff. The fact the athletic department and school schedules are coordinated sanely. There's a test calendar, so that kids can't ever have more than 2 major assignments due the same day (and there's a fair bit of juggling to ensure there aren't a glut in the same week, either.)

The problem is that this takes a level of management that most public schools seem unable to do - and that a number of private ones aren't doing either.

(It's sort of an old money/new money split: the places that are secure in their identity seem to have the stress-reducing stuff at least partly down, the places that aren't don't so much.)

WordK said...

So, the other day in one of the Russian classes, we were supposed to describe our high schools. Of course, one of the fine fellows in my group attended what I’m assuming is a very elite boarding school in New Hampshire. (He’s also just out of high school and on this program as a gap year.) It was apparently mind-boggling that I had gone to a high school that only had your basic reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic classes. I’m actually kinda disappointed in myself for not having looked up how to explain the concept of shop class and welding in Russian – it would have been fun to further confuse him. Yes, I’m a prole who went to a public school (a poor one at that) and seems to be doing fine.

Eagle said...

WHAT is it with the 'you must be perfect' attitude to kids these days?!?!

I mean, I spent infants' school and junior school as an insufferable snob 'cause I was smart enough to breeze through the work at that level, and my parents encouraged the idea that that made me a Superior Being(Desians much, ToS fans?). Then when I went up to secondary school the work got tough enough that I actually had to work at it for the first time, and THAT sent my self-esteem into a serious nose-dive, until it was in negative numbers, a nose-dive that it has never totally recovered from and my mother KEEPS ON ABOUT IT and gah.