EDUCATIONAL ADVICE FOR MY KIDS:
What My Kids Won’t Hear From Their Teachers (Or Their Dad)
I want my kids to believe in getting a good education, but I’m not sure where they’ll get it.
In the classroom? At home? In the gutter, where I got it?
I have a friend who sends his kids to Catholic school, partly because he’s Catholic, but mostly because he lives in a big American city where – as in all big American cities – the public schools stink.
I asked my friend, “Are the Catholic schools any good?”
“No,” he said. “But the kids aren’t taught anything that I have to un-teach them when they come home.”
And that’s pretty much all I’ve asked from the schools where I’ve sent my three kids.
I’ve been lucky. They haven’t come home needing to be un-taught much.
There was one occasion, at the kids’ sort-of-but-not-too-Montessori-ish grade school, when a teacher answered a second-grader’s question about the difference between Democrats and Republicans by saying, “Democrats care about people.”
Fortunately for my police record, another parent blew her top before I had a chance to blow mine.
Fortunately for my police record, another parent blew her top before I had a chance to blow mine. The teacher was called to the dean’s office where her ears were pinned back and her hair was scorched off by an angry mom yelling, “Democrats care about ‘The People’! Democrats hate people! Republicans care about people and hate ‘The People’! Especially you!”
And a few weeks ago the prep school where my middle daughter goes had “Unconscious Bias Day” – all classes were excused in favor of required attendance at six or eight hours of lectures, assemblies, workshops, and discussion groups devoted to the above-named topic.
This is a traditional New England prep school – which is to say it is resolutely multicultural in curriculum, diversity-sensitive, and inclusivity oriented. Meanwhile, of course, preserving the age-old customs and mores of rich WASPs.
A young man can appear in the classroom dressed like Princess Di and no one will say a word, but he will be sent back to his dorm if he wears jeans and a collarless shirt.
I asked my daughter, “Is there bias at your school?”
She said, “Oh, gosh no. Nobody’s prejudiced or bigoted or anything like that.”
“In that case,” I said, “why not just have ‘Unconscious Day’?”
Schools haven’t taught my kids many bad things. On the other hand, there are many good things schools haven’t taught my kids either.
Today’s students can list every injustice in America but can’t name a Justice of the Supreme Court.
They know all about Martin Luther King Jr. but have no idea who Martin Luther was.
They are fully conversant with Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, but are fuzzy on the details of Articles I through VII of the U.S. Constitution… not to mention Amendments I through X, and II in particular.
(Furthermore, Title IX aside, they don’t know their Roman numerals and they can’t write – or read – longhand.)
They are cognizant of the origins of poverty but ignorant of the origins of wealth. Their instruction has been in “dark Satanic Mills,” not John Stuart Mill. And they wouldn’t know Adam Smith from Adam.
(And even knowing Adam from Eve is a pedagogical conundrum these days. Or so I gather. I haven’t heard any direct reports. While I enjoy embarrassing my kids as much as the next dad, I’ve never gone so far as to ask them, “What did you learn in Sex Ed Class today?”)
The students have absorbed endless lessons about the horrors of war but would be baffled if they encountered the quotation, “make a desolation and call it peace.” Not that they’re likely to be assigned to read Tacitus.
Instead they are assigned to read about the detrimental effects of Eurocentric patriarchal imperialism. What they read is true enough, no doubt. But if an instructor dared to assign “The White Man’s Burden,” in which Rudyard Kipling writes about the detrimental effects of Eurocentric patriarchal imperialism on Eurocentric patriarchal imperialists, the instructor would be fired.
And, come to think of it, I don’t believe any of my children have ever been assigned to read a poem that rhymed.
Furthermore – while I’m at it with my rant – today’s students know all about climate change but spend too much time indoors staring at screens to know anything about the weather.
They have reversed Charles Dudley Warner’s famous quip, “Everybody complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” They’re all doing something about the weather – with their climate activism, climate advocacy, heightening of climate awareness, etc. – but they’ve curled up with Netflix and are too cozy to complain.
Thus, today’s students are graduating from school literally too stupid to come in out of the rain.
But so did we. So did everyone. That’s the way it’s always been. We don’t get much of our education in school.
This leaves me in charge of the education my kids get outside school…
OK, I’m lying… My wife is in charge of that. And my kids can be damn thankful for it. But I try to do my little bit.
I give them two rules: Mind your own business and keep your hands to yourself.
I give them two rules: Mind your own business and keep your hands to yourself. I call these “The Bill and Hillary Clinton Rules” because… Mind your own business, Hillary. And, Bill, keep your hands to yourself.
Then I invoke the “Fairness Precept,” which began with my eldest daughter, a child much given to exclamations of “That’s not fair!”
One day when she was about eight or nine and had worked herself up into a huge snit about the unfairness of something or other I lost my patience and snapped at her…
“Not fair?” I said. “You’re cute. That’s not fair. Your parents are pretty well off. That’s not fair. You were born in America. THAT’S not fair. Honey, you’d better get down on your knees and pray to God that things don’t start getting ‘fair’ for you!”
Finally, I teach them about hypocrisy. My mentor on the subject was my old friend (and American Consequences contributor) Andy Ferguson. Andy’s children are older than mine. When his were in junior high and mine were still little, I asked Andy what he was going to say when he was asked – as he inevitably would be – “Dad, did you take drugs?”
Andy, a fellow survivor of the “Better Living Through Chemistry” era, replied, “I’ll say I never took any drugs, ever.”
“Andy,” I said, “what about that 1970s photo of you on the mantle with your hair down to your butt and a guitar?”
“I’ll say I was playing in a band that performed ‘folk mass’ at church.”
“But Andy,” I said, “you’ve published books where you’ve written about being stoned out of your gourd.”
“Reading is part of a good education,” Andy said, “but when it comes to reading there’s one thing you can count on with your kids – they will never read anything written by their fathers.”
Presumably, that includes what I’m writing here. Therefore, I have told my children that I never took drugs, never had sex until I was married to their mom, and that when I was a kid I made my bed every morning before I left for school.
If the kids believe that, they’ll believe anything. They might even believe in getting a good education.