Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Flippin' Future of Our Kids

Recently I wrote an article for this blog entitled; "Don't Get Smart With Me." It suggested that there are different types of smart and some kids have trouble showing their particular kind of "smart" within our standardized testing and classroom confines. I talked about some very famous "smart" people who did not fit the school mode. I referenced Edison, and Einstein, for example. I was very encouraged by my findings and hoped whoever read the article might think twice about how they see intelligence and ability in others. I still do.

Having a teenager at home who is looking toward graduation and very unsure about what comes next, I have been trying to be encouraging, calming, even non judgmental when she throws out ideas regarding her future that make me want to scream, "WHAT? Are you crazy? No way. Not if we are footing the bill, not if you live here, not if ... Are you crazy?" I try to feign a smile and say that nothing must be decided today and not to pigeon hole herself as a student or non student. I try to remember some very good advice given to me many years ago. "Love your children for who God made them to be, not who you want them to be. The more you try to tweak them against their nature, the more frustrated everyone is." Ah, what a beautiful thought. But wait a minute, I don't think my mentor meant putting up with frivolity and laziness and kooky plans to find themselves somewhere along P.C.H. watching the sunset. Isn't it my job as a parent to push my child back into the right lane, to protect them from ideas that are not so realistic?

I would literally fight tooth and nail to make sure each and every child is evaluated fairly,and given his or her rightful chance to show their gifts and their capabilities. I am still a huge advocate for taking another long look at how we teach and how we test. What I am most sure of though, is that it is the desire for knowledge that makes life rich. The quest to understand and be enlightened in your faith, your perceptions, your grasp of history, and culture, and art is what heightens our enjoyment and fulfillment in our relationships and in our behavior and contributions to the world.

Too bad the age at which we graduate from High School is nowhere near the age that we understand the importance and the blessing of a good education. We are expected to make these big educational decisions at a time in life when all our hormones and frontal lobe want to do is have fun! I was no different. I was more concerned about how my bangs were feathered than my math test. I came out of High School and floated into Junior College with no real plan yet for transfer, or specific career. I knew I wanted to write; that's about it. Looking back though, somewhere deep deep down I had a strong sense that continued schooling was not a question for me. It had to be accomplished.

One of my teachers in High School always warned us, "If you don't get an education, your options are limited. Pay attention. Work hard, or you'll be flippin' the burgers." Any time someone was goofing off in class, or late, he'd just say, "Yeah, keep it up. Flippin' the burgers." We even used the phrase on each other when we did or said something silly. "Flippin' the burgers." Obviously with no offense intended toward any person who flips burgers, I want more for my daughter.

I watched an old episode of "Freaks and Geeks" the other night. It is a look at high school teens in the 80's. The show was under the direction of Judd Apatow and starred now famous faces like James Franco, Seth Rogan and Jason Segel. The character of Lindsay is a smart, capable student who is choosing to dumb herself down to fit it with the cool crowd. Her guidance counselor will not stand by and watch her demise, so he follows her with college applications and pleads with her not to throw away her chances at a great educational future. In a pivotal moment in the hallway, Lindsay turns to her counselor and says,"Not everyone who's smart goes to college. Look at Einstein and Thomas Edison." "And Frank!" points out the counselor excitedly. "Who's Frank?" asks Lindsay. There is a momentary pause, and then he answers, "The guy who pumps my gas."

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