Sorry guys. I haven’t moved on from yesterday yet. I am still obsessing over the teachers comment about how wwell Little Man "blends in" and why it’s so important for a person to "fit in" versus "stand out".
I think of my father as I type this as much as I do my son. My dad was a man that learned with his hands. He scraped through his high school education, not because he wasn't smart enough to excel at learning, but because he could not stand to sit confined to a desk while he did. My dad built his own computer back when computers were not yet commercially available, set up a local area network in our home in the late 1970’s around the time LANs were first popping up in industry, and taught himself how to do both by working actively with his hands. He learned to program in multiple computer languages simply by sitting down and trying to do it. At one point my Dad maintained global time synchronization in several wireless networks via satellite for a large multinational bank. He had a dedicated phone line in our house that was for the computer in his bedroom. He was on call 24/7 if there was an issue. I know that the technology I am talking about is very “old school” for today but it was quite advanced for the time. This is a man that never went to college, he barely graduated high school in fact. Today he couldn’t even get an interview at most companies that do the kind of work he did. His education pattern didn’t fit the standard mold. Sometimes it feels as if we have completely lost sight of the words of Antoine de Saint-Expery “He who is different from me does not impoverish me - he enriches me.”
It feels to me our culture is getting more and more narrow minded. We have set up systems of education, of employment, of everything really, to favor one set of characteristics over all others. We all lose something under this system, even those who have the “favored” characteristics. We lose the richness that comes from diverse thought and different life experiences. We straight jacket what it means to be “successful” and then we steadily restrict what paths one can take to that goal. Everyone has to fit into their pre-slotted box. I wonder how in a country founded on the idea of freedom we have so completely forgotten that “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum....” Noam Chomsky
Instead of working to cultivate diversity of thought and experience our culture works actively to whittle down any parts of a person that don’t fit; most often with threats of physical, emotional, social or mental harm, but sometimes with actual harm inflicted.
Last Friday a teacher heard some commotion in the boys’ restroom at Little Man’s school and when she went in she found another student choking Little Man. The school is reacting appropriately. I am by no means trying to slam them by sharing this. (People who read here will know from past posts I am more than happy to call them out if need be.) In this case, the new administration at the school is all over it but it takes time to change a culture. Not just the school culture but our overall culture. “Culture will not change just because we desire to change it. Culture only changes when the structures supporting it are transformed – the culture reflects the realities of people living and working side by side every day.” - (with apologies to Frances Hesselbein) And this is why I am still fussing over that one little phrase. Because in the end it is not little. It is everything.