Our collective memory loss…and signs of hope

Yesterday was a great and discouraging hopeful day.

Great because no matter who you voted for, it is always amazing how this process of ours moves forward.   It’s not perfect – far from it, but in 200+ years we’ve experienced no coups and very little violence when it comes to the transfer of power.   Yesterday we got to celebrate that process and also celebrate the memory of Dr. King.  Which seemed perfectly fitting, all things considered.

It was also hopeful.  At first I wrote discouraging, because I ran across a compilation of tweets posted yesterday from a shocking number of people calling for the assassination of President Obama – preferably during the Inauguration.    This is the downside, the dark side, the lowest level of the internet;  the quasi-anonymity and total license to say the most vile and damaging things.  In this case the authors of those tweets may find that there are in fact repercussions; the last time I checked, threats of assassination do not fall under the protection of the 1st Amendment.    Equally discouraging was that one of the tweets was posted by a woman studying elementary education.   The thought of this person being an influence on any child is appalling.

Then there was NY Magazine, whose cover article was titled “High School is a Sadistic Institution: Why you never truly leave high school”.    Turns out all those negative things that happen in school when you’re 16 – those things affect you for life.  Much more than if they’d happened when you were 20.   This isn’t news for a lot of us; how many people, when they talk about high school, talk about how great and positive it was?  Not many.

Discussions about the NY Mag article led to a discussion about the long term affects of coercive schooling and our collective memory as a society.    Compulsory schooling fully took hold about 100 years ago.   It is both interesting and important to note that in Massachusetts families took to the streets to protest the implementation of compulsory schooling; they believed that forcing a family to send their child to school ran counter to the statutes on which our country was founded.   (Those Bostonians have been nothing but trouble ever since they dumped all that tea into Boston Harbor!) Eventually, though, the government & accompanying powers prevailed, and compulsory schooling set in.   It is my conclusion that despite this fact, in the early days of compulsory schooling the collective memory of our nation still valued independence and resourcefulness over perfect attendance, homework and test scores.  Many teachers & parents at the time had grown up without compulsory schooling.    Even into the 1940’s and 50’s, remnants of this independent, pre-compulsory schooling spirit remained, though it was already dwindling.   By the time the 1970’s rolled around, most teachers & parents were on board with the ever more stringent regulations put in place in public schools, having themselves been raised in the compulsory educational system.   At some point, and I wouldn’t venture to try and pinpoint it exactly, we reached a kind of “tipping point” and the collective memory of our past, which valued individuality over conformity, was almost completely lost and we moved with increasing speed toward our current situation, where people are taught to be afraid and to conform; where they believe that they cannot learn unless they are taught.  The resourcefulness and self-direction which were instrumental in the founding of our country are now viewed through a kind of self-deluded fog.  We say we still value these traits – and we do when it comes to our history – but in practice they are frowned upon.

Where, you are now asking, is the “hopeful” part?

The hopeful part is that the New York Magazine article was written at all.  That somewhere in our collective conscious, a nagging voice is telling us that something isn’t right.

The hopeful part is all of you reading this blog and others like it.

The hopeful part is all of the unschoolers, the life learners and the homeschoolers who are growing in number every year.

The hopeful part is the people who continue to do good, despite everything.

Sometimes you need to look hard to see them, but there are always signs of hope.   Thanks for being among them.

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