Like Pavlov’s dogs, they condition us to be hungry when the bell rings. They make us believe that the elders deserve respect despite their oppression and always know better than us, and they know what’s right for us. They mold each child until we become a slave of their philosophy, doing everything the way we should. They make grades have moralistic overtones to them. An “A+” is excellent. An “A” is good. If you get a “D”, that’s bad. “F”? You failed, son! You failed. They make failure and mistakes look like the worst thing in the world forgetting that no one learned anything without making mistakes. Learning is unimportant, testing is. Questioning is discouraged. The most common question in a classroom is, “Will this be on the test, miss?” You eat when it’s time to eat. You don’t sit next to your friends. That will distract you. The teacher decides who you’ll sit with. The bell decides when you can release your bladder. The bell decides when you can go home. At home, you have to do your homework before play. Not after, always before. The most unfortunate thing about life is how you can’t decide how to live for 18 years of your life.
But this is just another problem to be solved. And I’m optimistic that we will solve it. Today, we cringe if women are thought of as inferior to men, as people who are to be paternalistically controlled by an authority like their husband or father. A few centuries ago, it was perfectly normal for men to dictate what women could or could not do. There was a time when slavery was the norm. What happened?
I’m not saying it’s inevitable for children to become free just like the women or the historically enslaved. It is people who set the shackles and only people who can break the same shackles. If we work towards it, as Sarah Fitz-Claridge said, “one day it will be obvious to everyone that the differences currently thought to exist between adults and children either do not exist, or would not exist were we taking children seriously, and that they do not justify not taking children seriously.”
Perhaps the most fortunate thing about life is that things don’t always have to be like they’ve always been. I dropped out of school and now only eat lunch when I’m hungry.
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