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Your Child, Your Choice

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Your Child, Your Choice

By Chad Fridal

EDITOR’S NOTE: Chad prefaces his free e-book, Your Child, Your Choice:

I am not an author. I am not a journalist. You may find a stray comma, fragment sentence or worse. But the truths you will find here stand on their own. If you have the grace to look past my grammar you will come to better understand your own public school experience. But most importantly you will find reasons to keep your own little one free.

I thank Chad for bringing his work to my attention because he writes from the heart. I hope many will read what he has poured onto his site, Your Child, Your Choice, after you’ve read this excerpt from Chapter 1, titled “Greg,” here, as Chad shares more on the psychic and permanent damage created by schooling.

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DunceCapInCorner Greg

How could he not be affected?

The gurgling and giggling that only happens in a room full of five-year-olds fills the air. Bright colored posters of numbers and letters cover the walls. Little people mill around knee-high tables and chairs. There is a smell of glue and markers. Mrs. Ford calls out that it is time for “50-in-a-minute”. The milling about slows and the little people begin taking their seats around the little tables. Each one is given a sheet of math problems that are to be completed in one minute.

Little Greg finds his seat. He is restless. It is almost time for lunch.

“Children, when I tell you to start, you may answer the math problems on the paper,” Mrs. Ford explains as she walks among the knee-high tables handing papers to her little students. “I’ll turn on the timer,” she holds up her stop watch. “When I tell you to stop, put down your pencils and I will pick up your papers. Ready, begin!”

Greg and the Stickers

Some of the little people continue talking and have to be reminded to start. Greg begins writing the answers to his math problems. If he answers them all correctly in one minute, he can go on to the next, more difficult set of problems. Each time he passes to a higher “level” of problems he will get a sparkling sticker by his name on a chart. The chart is hung on the wall with the colorful posters. One or two little people have more sparkling stickers than anyone else. All the other little people see this. So does the teacher. These are the exceptional little people. Look at all the sparkling stickers! The majority of little people have about the same number of stickers as everyone else in the class. Greg and Amber have the fewest stickers. But even Amber has more than Greg.

When Greg entered Kindergarten, he was fast, smart and talented. He didn’t need a sticker to tell him that he was approved of or loved. There was no chart to tell him he was able to learn or not. That has all changed. Greg now finds himself on the chart with fewer sparkling stickers than anyone. I mean anyone. Keep in mind that the world of a Kindergartener is not the world of an adult. Home and Kindergarten are the whole world to him, all he knows. So Greg actually has fewer stickers than anyone else in the world. Can you begin to imagine what that means to little Greg?

After couple of weeks, what do you think happens in the pit of Greg’s stomach when “50-in-a-minute” is announced?

“OK kids; let’s see how far ahead of Greg you can get today! Greg, let’s see just how much slower you are than anyone in the whole wide world!”

Greg is also behind in his other subjects. Do you think “50-in-a-minute” could have anything to do with it? Could it be that Greg knows the answers to the math questions, but is a slow writer? Is it possible that he is just flustered by the timer? Is it possible that Greg actually believes that he really is slower than everyone else because that’s what the chart says? Who knows? No one has the time to find out. The teacher believes what’s on the chart. The students believe what’s on the chart. Most importantly, Greg believes what’s on the chart.

What Stickers Do to Greg

Does Greg’s teacher aim to label and humiliate little Greg day after day? Of course not. But she doesn’t pause to see that is exactly what she is doing. After a few weeks she will notice a trend and send some practice sheets home with Greg. Now he gets to take his humiliation home with him. No longer is he the smartest, fastest, most talented kid in the world, not even to his parents.

See also “Schooling Causes Psychic Damage Lasting Into Adulthood

A couple of weeks roll by. Mrs. Ford knows that Greg is behind. But her hands are full with letters and numbers, runny noses and snacks. She will catch him up later. In the meantime Greg will be thoroughly convinced that he is the slowest kid in the world.

Day after day, month after month, year after year Greg is reminded daily what the chart says to him. Is it any surprise that he comes to believe it? Is it any surprise that teachers and staff eventually think that Greg just doesn’t seem to get it? Does it shock anyone that he is in remedial classes in every subject, just to help him keep up?

After six years of ‘50-in-a-minute” charts, young Greg changed from the little person that doesn’t get it, to a young man that really doesn’t care. Can you blame him? He has been told nearly one thousand times that he is slower than anyone. Nearly one thousand times his classmates and teachers have seen and believed the chart too.  Now a sixth-grader, Greg influences the kids around him not to care either. It is at this point that I learned something amazing about him.

This is the year that I teach Music in Greg’s school. One morning, I waited at the back of the room to take his class to the Music Room. I had arrived a little early, so I watched the class do “50-in-a-minute”. Two or three students whizzed through the problems and slammed down their pencils, announcing to the class and the world that they were done. My eyes caught on Greg. He strained and struggled, wrote an answer, erased it, looked around as more pencils were slapped down, strained and struggled some more until the minute was finally up.

He sat with his head hanging. I could see real pain on his face. The kids lined up at the door to go to Music. Greg’s head still hung down as he took his place in the line. Until then, I had bought into what the teachers had told me: Greg didn’t care. If Greg didn’t care, then why the pain? I told the class to go ahead, I would catch up. I couldn’t wait to tell Greg’s teacher the good news. Greg really cares! Something could be done for him! It would have been easy to miss with all that his teacher had to keep up with. She would be excited at the prospect of helping him. I told her what I had seen; how great it must be for her that there was hope for him. Greg cared.

When I was done, she stood there and just looked at me. There was no expression, no surprise, no interest, nothing. After waiting an awkward moment or two, I turned and left the room. Why didn’t she respond?  Didn’t she care? I knew her to be a dedicated teacher. What was going on? Was she at fault for Greg’s situation? Were his previous teachers? Maybe the program was at fault. Maybe his parents were at fault. The implications of a response were enormous. Maybe she had the good sense to realize that.

The Profound Effect on Greg

Consider the effects of this one program on Greg for over six years! How could he not be affected? Especially in those tender years, when Greg is told something over and over for a long enough time, the effect will be profound.

Were the intentions of the “50-in-a-minute” program good? Could those that created and implemented it known that it would actually harm Greg? Is there any public school where Greg would have been safe from “50-in-a-minute”? No. Every public school is loaded with programs just like it. Then where would Greg be safe from such programs? At home! Greg’s parents would have been able to recognize something was wrong way back when he was five years old. They could have made the needed adjustments and Greg would still be the fastest, smartest, most talented kid in the world. His future is questionable now because of what he believes about himself. How sad that his teacher didn’t have the time or the will to help Greg at that last moment.

Mom, are you willing to take the chance that your little one would go through the same experience as Greg? Do you dare give your little one over to programs and policies that stifle natural curiosity and smother self-esteem?

 

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