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  • Steven Delpome

Focus


So many kids are scarred by the time they reach adulthood. Kids that are all kinds of different, too smart, too dumb, gay, trans, weird tastes, too loud, too quiet, and so on…

We tell them the same thing, “it won’t always be like this,” and we mean it and we know it’s true because of how much our lives are different than they were when we were in school. We discover this when we find there’s a whole world out there beyond the realm of school.

But for some reason we still insist on doing what we can to keep these children’s worlds limited within school. We tell them to focus--to narrow one’s view rather than see the great big world that is out there. Algebra is more important than finding a place in the world that accepts you. This document of Warren Harding’s address to Congress is more important than puzzling over why those cliquey asshats hate you.

We excuse ourselves for doing this often by saying that, for many children, school is a sanctuary. A place to get away from the ills in their lives and it is for some. For others it’s utter hell that causes them various levels of anxiety, mental breakdowns, and suicide.

Even if it does serve as a sanctuary, what if school is not the sanctuary children really need? Could we be encouraging them to widen their lives and find their own solutions, rather than asking them to close off from it? Some kids need a hiding place, but what makes us so sure that school is good for that considering what trouble it causes so many? Why can’t we encourage them to find other sanctuary? Broaden their limited worldview?

Because they might lose focus on the standards by which they, and school, are measured? If a boy is busy reading about activities and life options that are good for introverts, he won’t have time to focus on how to “Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.” You can’t widen your view when you must tune out and focus on the DBQ research project.

And that situation embodies the choice we make in school every day: what the child needs or what the school needs.