Monday, May 20, 2013

To Tell You the Truth

I haven't really felt much like writing these days. Maybe it is the cold rainy weather. Or it could be that so many topics these days feel like re-treads. Like say, STRANGER DANGER!!!!!

Amy was telling me about some cute thing that came home from 1st grade about all their favorite parts of the year. Having not yet seen it, I went digging in E's backpack. I found said item, we'll get back to it, but also found some bullshit safety worksheet they completed. So it became re-programming Sunday!

Some were easy. On the "make sure to wear your elbow and knee pads on a bike," I just let him know that for some average street riding, those items were more likely to get his ass kicked for looking like a robo-dork than do any worthwhile protecting. For the "always wear sunscreen," we talked about whether or not a little vitamin D was ok compared to spending your entire life slathered in chemicals.

But then of course, we got to the complete insanity. "If a 'don't know' talks to you, run and tell a trusted adult" and "Never talk to a 'don't know.'" I am an ever-loving broken record on this point, but I do not want my children living in a State of Fear, terrified that each and every person they have not met formally and for whom they have not received letters of recommendation is some sort of violent killer. Yes we talk about how you shouldn't go waltzing off into a van for grilled cheese sandwiches with someone you haven't met, but if an unknown says hi, you can just say hi back rather than flee as if Satan himself had shown up on the playground. Sheesh.

In reprogramming success number one, I now have E trained to tell whoever is spoon feeding him this garbage to let them know that his Mom is a-ok with talking to strangers, pardon me, "don't knows." Take that Guidance.

And after scaring the bejesus out of them, school sets in to stress them out entirely about standardized tests, in Virginia, the dreaded SOLs. We had some standardized tests back in the day - the SAT for example. But no one I knew was that wound up about it. Yeah, maybe if you didn't get a great score you couldn't go to Harvard, but unless you completely tanked, you were getting in somewhere.

Now, these tests for 3rd grade and on are billed as THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER!!!! YOUR FAILURE WILL RUIN YOUR LIFE!!!!!! Think that might be a bit much for a 9 year old? So all these kids are coming home in tears, having trouble sleeping because they have been told that if they don't pass THE TEST, they will not get to take electives in Middle School and will be cast down into remediation. They are told tales of watching their friends skip off to choir while they will be locked in a room with all the other morons.

Our reprogramming efforts have been going on in this arena for years. Ever since Morrigan came home in 3rd grade all wound up, we decided that we don't give a good poo about these tests. I told the kids they have to pass, because they are simply too smart to fail, but they can get the absolute minimum passing grade and I will not care.

This is a tougher stance to stick with than you think. There are pictures put up at school and much lauding of the kids with all 600s (perfect scores.) My kids are not listed in the school newsletter with the shining stars. As an aside, do you know how the school system rewards the kids who get all 600s? They get to meet the school board. What kind of self aggrandizing crap is that? When I was a kid, if you got in trouble, they sent you to the principal. Now your reward is to go to that person's boss. A true incentive should be we won't make you go to a school board meeting.

But my kids, not so stressed. The past few years they came home with perfectly acceptable, if unremarkable, scores. But we may have some outliers this year. I told them I would pay cash money if they got all 600s, went to the school board meeting, and as they shook the Superintendent's hand said to her, "Wow, I've always wanted to meet a real live bureaucrat."


  1. I so totally agree your blog. To me strangers are future friends. I find it sad that schools instill the "fear everyone" notion.
    In fact, how do they suggest for anyone to make a friend at all. After all, we start not really knowing anyone.
    Go Katie, your Dad (who has always talked to anyone, remember the fireworks at the Eiffel tower in Paris and the three students that stayed overnight?)

  2. You crack me up. I agree that "rewards" for a 600 totally blows. We downplay the SOLs at our house too. It's not really for them anyway, it is for the school and let's not kid ourselves. High stakes testing tied to funding is misguided, in my humble opinion.