Wednesday, August 24, 2011

When the Best's Not Best

Several months ago I was at a party having a conversation with a couple moms with kids who were the same age as Emma, who was barely two at the time. One mom asked me where Emma was going to school. I paused for a moment, not quite sure I understood what she was asking. I awkwardly reminded her that Emma was only two. She didn't go to school. She and the other mom told me how their kids had been in school since they were eighteen months. Then they enlightened me about the best schools in the area and how you have to start them early if you want them to get into a good preschool.

They were preparing them to get into the best schools.

At two.

I get tired just thinking about what the next sixteen years of those kids' lives will be like.

I read an excellent article today about Finnish schools, which made me very proud to be a Finn. It turns out that Finland has made more of a contribution to the world than with saunas, Nokia, and Angry Birds. They're leaders in education and it's not because they crank out amazing standardized test scores. In fact, they don't even have standardized tests, apart from the matriculation exam taken at the end of their final year of school as a prerequisite to attend university. Yet, globally they're leading the way in math, science, and reading. They're not motivated by competition; more tax dollars do not go to schools that perform well, and students living in affluent areas do not have greater opportunities than those living in poor areas. In fact, they pride themselves in equality for all students. Schools are publicly funded and run by, get this, educators. It's not business people or politicians making decisions about education. It's educators. They trust their educators and let them do their jobs. Wow, how empowering that must be. I think of all my friends and family in education here in the States who are so disheartened because they're not allowed to just do their jobs. They're policed by bureaucrats that don't know the first thing about educating our children.

We've created a climate of competition that begins during the first couple years of our children's lives that is screwing them up. They are made to think that they're loved because of what they do, not who they are. When all you whisper to someone is achieve, achieve, achieve, you end up with a bunch of kids that don't give a flip about actual learning. In study after study, students admit to cheating because really, that's what we teach them with all our performance-based testing. Students don't even see it as a moral issue because the system (not the teachers) teaches that achievement is the most important goal, so use any means necessary to get ahead.

I don't want my kids to live like this. I don't want to parent like this. I just want my kids to be kids. I had a conversation today with a friend about how if I want to get Em in the preschool where I would like her to go next year, it might be a good idea to put her in a couple days a week this winter. It's hard to get a spot if she's not already enrolled. Seriously, it's out of control. I can't worry about it though.

I am a teacher, regardless of if I'm in a classroom ever again. I take full responsibility for my children. I will cultivate their potential in ways that speak to their entire being. I will teach them about what it means to love God and put others before themselves. We will learn together that it's better to serve others than to be served. My kids will not get lost in a system that some politician has hijacked. I pray that they grow up to be world changers, not because they have an edge over someone else, but because they follow a better way. I pray that they know the One who redeems lives, systems, and cultures. And I pray that Matt and I don't get caught up in all this nonsense in the name of wanting what's best for our kids.


Kate said...

The last paragraph gave me chills. Amen!

Mary H said...

You go girl! I agree with you whole heartedly. That's why so many parents home school these days. Great "article".

meg said...

amen and amen. i couldn't agree more! nick&i so desire a simple life for our kids where they are allowed to be KIDS. and to raise them in a way that (prayerfully!) they live out the way jesus is active in their hearts... not because we are pushing them to be the best. well said, my friend!