Ah school days……how I remember those carefree days of learning, conversing, making friends, and getting some decent exercise. I remember dreading PE class, and now wishing I had been more active. I remember being in band………and making a really stupid choice in which instrument I wanted to learn (learned the tuba). I did keep a good appreciation of art, even though in Junior High, my 8th grade Art teacher just about ruined my love for it in just one year – then again, he was a douche. It was his subject matter and his way, or you didn’t get a good grade. Whatever happened to positive reinforcement to make kids want to learn? I guess he was in it just for the paycheck – I didn’t see any really good reason.
The holiday seasons were a great segueway into some creative fun. We exchanged Valentine’s Day cards with our classmates, wore green or got pinched on St. Patrick’s Day, dressed up for Halloween, made turkeys for Thanksgiving, and made presents for our parents and friends for Christmas – activities that actually had some meaning to them, and made us happier people.
Seems times have changed for schools, and not for the better, I’m sorry to say. It seems more and more often, you read stories about what happens in schools, and how the rules and practices have been changed in such a way that it seems to have driven some of the joy out of the whole school experience. Take that time right before school, for example. If you arrived a bit early from school, that was free bonus time for you and your friends! You played on the monkey bars, shot hoops, played tag, and gabbed with your friends about what your plans were for lunch and after school. I guess this practice has proven too much for our established school systems, and they have figured out their own method for nipping this in the bud – walking in a prison circle. Remember the movies about how the convicts would be in the yard, walking one behind the other in a line or in a circle – yeah………pretty much like that. Really? Walking in a circle until the school bell rings? That doesn’t teach good social skills – that teaches them to follow orders and be good little robots. Recess isn’t a whole lot better. Instead of being able to run about and blow off some steam, now everything is set up into organized activities, so the teachers and aides don’t have to spend time running about keeping track of all of their little minions – I mean students.
One year, I got a letter back from our kids’ school that said in a nutshell that kids were not allowed to wear costumes for Halloween. The reason behind this bit of *cough*wisdom*cough* is “to make it fair for those kids whose parents cannot afford to buy their kids costumes for Halloween”. Seriously?? The big, blaring WTF sirens were going off in my head hearing about this piece of nuttery. When I was a kid, not everyone could afford to buy fancy costumes either – so what did they do? They improvised! They made costumes out of whatever was around the house – odds and ends that could be re-imagined into robots, witch costumes, farmers – anything possible that kids could think of! So if you cannot go to the fancy Halloween store and buy an expensive costume, then you can’t think of anything else? These days, the Halloween season is all about dressing up and going out to get all filled up on candy, after which your dentist gets rich if you aren’t adamant about brushing your teeth plenty of times afterwards. I went as a robot one year – basically taking two cardboard boxes, cutting holes for my head and arms, and covering the whole thing in tin foil – that was my cool robot outfit that year, and I enjoyed it! Made a Pac-Man costume one year for a parade as well – all out of cardboard, duct tape, and paint. I made this with my own two hands and imagination – no one bought it for me!
So kids aren’t being prompted to use their imaginations anymore? Maybe that’s also why newer episodes of Sesame Street suck compared to the ones we grew up on. We are coddling their imaginations out of them, turning them into little drones to be cast out into the workforce when they grow up! Oh, and it’s not just the schools that are totally to blame though…….there are groups of parents out there that can share in this blame too. You know why? They have taken the power of discipline out of the school’s hands. No more paddle from the principal if you got way out of line – that was too emotionally damaging. No more after-school detention in many cases due to parents and their overbooked schedules. There are probably schools out there too afraid to do anything regarding discipline for one simple reason, and I can sum it up in one word – lawsuits. Oh yeah! Parents say they are gonna file a lawsuit against the school, and that school district will back-pedal faster than the Road Runner – you can believe that!
So parents……teachers……encourage our young people to be kids first, and let them grow up healthy – learning from their mistakes, allowing them to make mistakes, and don’t teach them to grow up quite so fast. After all……….you’re only small once.