September 22, 2011

Conquering the Industrial Complex

This week we had our parent-teacher conference with both teachers for Swee’Pea and TheMonk. It was one big love-fest with lots of compliments and gushing and anecdotal stories mixed with concrete evidence at how incredibly smart and gifted our children are when it comes to reading, writing and arithmetic.

I must admit that my wife and I walked out of school a little taller that afternoon. After all, it’s nice to hear from someone who isn’t related to you, just how wonderful your kids are. It was validation of all the time we have spent reading and coaching and encouraging the kidlets in all things school.

But I must admit, I’m a bit conflicted. On one hand, I’m happy that my children are learning and doing well in school. On the other hand, I’m bothered by the fact that we spent so much time discussing punctuation, ways to count to 100 and the finer points of Junie B. Jones that we never talked about how we are going to encourage Swee’Pea and TheMonk to be artists.

And I’m not talking about the arts, although Swee’Pea’s drawing ability and TheMonk’s musical abilities are certainly noteworthy, but I’m talking about how to excel in life. How are we teaching them to be confident enough to follow through on dreams when everyone else is telling them they cannot do it? How are we teaching them to question authority? How are we teaching them to blaze new paths rather than follow tired, worn out paths that lead to mediocrity and subservience?

How is coloring inside the lines, raising your hand when you have something to share, and fearing the thought of failure going to prepare my children to be the super stars that our next generation is going to need? While my kids have wonderful teachers that are doing a great job challenging my kids in the areas of standardized testing, when will they be taught the skills to succeed and even excel, in a world that now rewards those who stand up and challenge the status quo rather than those who blindly accept it as the best we can do?

It’s not the school’s or teacher’s fault, of course. They’re only doing what is mandated to them in trying to uphold a century-old institution that was created to provide an endless supply of subservient workers for factories during the industrial revolution that made our country great. But now… our country doesn’t need subservient workers, it needs leaders and artists and people who aren’t afraid to take chances in order to be great.

Right now, my children are artists. We all were at that age. We painted masterpieces because no one told us we couldn’t. But somewhere along the way, people told us only other people are artists. Only the truly gifted can be artists. And the worst part of it is that we believed it.

The more I think about this parenting gig, the more I realize how challenging it is – especially when you want your children to succeed in a world that wants them to be average, at best. My only hope is to help my children realize, as they grow, that they CAN do anything they want. That what other people think should not be the deciding factor that guides who you are and where you want to go. Follow your heart. Have the courage to stand up to mundane expectations and be the artist you want to be.

Being good at school is one thing. Being good at life is quite another.


  1. Learning how to be good at life is what they have you for – most of life is what you learn outside of school. :)

    Comment by pgoodness — September 22, 2011 @ 6:17 pm

  2. I think that we can encourage them to be good at both. Think of Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates. They were really great at achool but found a way to think differently, find their passion, and translate it into things that society values. (There are dozens of examples like them, the computer guys are just the first that came to mind.)

    Comment by Headless Mom — September 23, 2011 @ 6:57 am

  3. Excellent post.

    Comment by Sarah — September 23, 2011 @ 7:10 am

  4. This x1000! This is something that I’m already already thinking about. I know that I will have to be that parent, the one that asks questions, the one that puts in extra time but it will be totally worth it. I know that you will be that parent too, you already are.

    Comment by Sandi — September 23, 2011 @ 8:54 am

  5. Thank you so much for realising who is actually to blame. Our schools need an overhaul, and not in a better teacher, better teat results way, but on a prepare kids for the future way. You are completely right that the current system was developed to create factory workers. Now, we need to create entrepeneurs.

    Comment by Heather — September 23, 2011 @ 11:52 am

  6. Teaching children to think is the greatest gift you can give them. Exposing them to a variety of influences, art forms and quirky people did the trick for you and your brother.
    While all the computer gurus cited by Headless Mom are geniuses, Steve and Bill dropped out of college and Mark didn’t have many friends.

    Comment by Grandmother — September 23, 2011 @ 2:11 pm

  7. Beautifully written/said!

    Comment by Aina — September 26, 2011 @ 7:53 pm

  8. I love everything about what you have said here. I read it when you first posted it and am still at a loss for an apropriate comment. You have hit so many nails on their respective heads. Thank you for sharing this great reminder to parents all over the board!

    Comment by RobMonroe — September 28, 2011 @ 1:36 pm

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