Today we decided to visit the Pojoaque Valley Elementary School, where the play structures are awesome. Obviously they have been infused with state money, and possibly stimulus money, which hasn't filtered up to Los Alamost schools, most likely because we are too rich up here. The remarkable difference between the new Pojoaque schools and the Los Alamos schools is astonishing, to say the least. The Pojoaque ones are new, loaded with brand new playgrounds, and all the amenities. The Los Alamos ones are outdated, make-shift buildings, where band-aids are applied, but new construction is rare. Considering my property tax bill just increased by approximately $1200 annually to supposedly remedy this, I can only hope that my friends' schoolchildren will have more than veneers and plastic surgery to "fix" the schools ails. But I digress...
It All Starts Here!
Schools have been around in this country for what, 375 years? Interestingly enough, the founders of America's first public school, the Boston Latin School, began the school with the ancient Greek belief that "the only good things are the goods of the soul." Additionally, "from its beginning, Boston Latin School has taught its scholars dissent with responsibility and has persistently encouraged such dissent." What happened to these premises? An institution designed to help children learn the goods of the soul, and encouraging responsible dissent? Where did this train derail? It seems that the majority of public schools today are, in fact, in existence for the sole reason of preventing dissent both within the schools and the confines of modern day life. Forget about the goods of the soul. Schools have enough on their hands trying to maintain control of active, little bodies, and ensuring their kids are scoring high on standardized tests, there is no time to pursue Greek philosophy and to even discover what these goods of the soul might be. So, if soul goods and dissent are out...what is it that starts within the walls of education?
Success. When I was in 4th Grade at Pojoaque Elementary, we had a cheer that we performed all the time: S - U - C - C - E - S - S. That's the way you spell success, who's gonna win it? You can guess...Elks, Elks, the BEST!!!! I loved cheerleading when I was between the ages of 9 and 12. I attended cheerleading camps, and my friends and I pretended to be high school cheerleaders for hours a day. I did, in fact, wish to be a successful cheerleader--one who was pretty, kind, talented, and well, you know, cheery. When I was 9, that's what success meant to me. I wonder what it means to the little 4th graders at Pojoaque these days?
Excellence. Most people strive for excellence. But what is excellence? According to Webster's, excellence is the quality of being excellent, or superior. It is considered a virtue, which is said to be "a conformity to a standard of right; a morality." The virtuous definition makes more sense when it comes to what a school might hope to impart when emplacing a sign that implies that excellence starts at school.Come little children and conform.
Respect. Respect comes from Latin respectus, literally, an act of looking back; from respicere to look back. As I'm moving backwards through these signs that children see every day during classes, it seems like looking back and reflecting before commencing with the future would be an effective use of respect.However, I don't think that's what the administrators are hoping to impart by ensuring that their children see this day after day after day. Most likely the schools are hoping that their wards are engaging in acts of deference, holding their teachers, administrators, and peers in high regard.
Pride. Pride is the first thing the young ones at Pojoaque schools are subconsciously absorbing on upon entering school. Once again, I suspect that the school admins are, in their minds, thinking of pride in a positive manner, and not thinking of the word's synonym: conceit. A "reasonable or justifiable self-respect; the delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship" seem suited to what a school intends to pass along to its students. Pride in their schools, pride in their buildings, you know...that pre-patriotism stuff.
To be honest, I have no qualms with any of these ideas, or even the fact that Pojoaque schools feel compelled to hang these signs on the main walkway into the elementary school. Most people want their kid to feel pride in his work, to respect others, to have a sense a sense of excellence, and taste success.
I was more intrigued by the "Slow School Zone" sign. I suspect the sign intended to read "SLOW. School Zone" as in, slow down you idiot drivers, there are children here who may dash in front of your car. However, that's not how the sign read. Its juxtaposition to the "Caution Children Learning" sign is even more intriguing to me. Caution. Children Learning. Caution? What is there to be cautious about? The sign is placed in the bus drop-off loop, not at the entrance to the building, so I find it even more strange.
But, to go with it... Wouldn't it be nice if schools COULD slow down? If they would let kids be kids so they could have countless hours of play? Could let kids enjoy the success of using their imagination, feel the excellence of using their big muscles (as opposed to the heroic effort it takes to sit in a chair doing busywork), to respect gravity and the other forces of nature, and to have pride in their own creations - whether big or small? Schools should slow down, and become slow school zones. And there should be no caution in our children learning...kids should be encouraged to learn in dangerous (at least to the status quo) ways, as in being allowed the freedom to follow their own interests, and to explore the world at their own pace.
The intent of schools is fundamentally good--they want to impart concepts into the minds of children so they grow into successful, people who strive for excellence, do so respectfully and with pride. But I disagree that it all starts in the hallways of our modern day schools. But, that is an essay for another day. In the meantime, my kids and I will continue to enjoy the playground while we play and explore in our own ways, and with our own "Po - w - e - r" !!!