My son is two years old and people would like to know where we intend to send him to school. I have told people in the past that it doesn't matter, they are all the same-equally bad. It's difficult to be flippant when the subject is my own child, though. Truth be told, I don't want to send him anywhere at all for a few years and it's not because I'm one of those mothers who can't bear to let their children go a minute in anybody else's care. So why not KGS or at the very least a reputable school such as the one I myself attended?
Choosing a school isn't like choosing a brand of diapers or a stroller or cute new outfit. I am expected to want my child to go to the "right" school even though the criteria for admission to that school goes against everything I believe in. Don't worry, people will say, they don't really judge the child on knowing his ABCs or shapes! They just want to see a well-adjusted kid who is comfortable going to another room with a teacher! Surely all parents of toddlers know that all well-adjusted children will prefer the familiar and comforting over the unknown and sometimes unpleasant? Surely everybody understands that separation anxiety is a normal, healthy sign of attachment and intelligence? Surely we can comprehend that a kid's eagerness to perform for a stranger has little to do with "merit" and everything to do with temperament (or good fortune, if you see it that way)? And surely people don't really believe we can judge the worth of a family or the love they have for their child by how good their English is or where they went to primary school or which company they work for? If we are all in agreement that the entrance criteria for schools is flawed and outdated, how can we expect the criteria for teaching to be any different?
I'm not saying that a prestigious school will destroy my child, even if it does subscribe to ideas that are completely opposite to my own. I am saying that one area in which we should not be content to settle for "it might be OK" is the emotional well being of our children. I do not want my child to start his academic career with the idea that exclusivity is the same as worth. I do not want him to believe that performing on cue, even when it goes against his gut, is the right thing to do. I do not want him to turn out alright in spite of school. I want radical, I want different, I want better.
I want him to hold on to and cultivate his openness to life, his belief in abundance and trust in others. I want him to feel joy, not shame, in not knowing answers, because not knowing leads to exploration. I want him to know that the world is enough, that he is enough, that there is enough for everybody if you open your heart, not that it is important to keep up with the neighbors or wear a particular uniform or have a certain accent or perform certain feats to earn love and respect.
We live in a place where everybody is afraid to live, love or learn. A mother's joy at watching her child play will be remedied by instant fear of the evil eye, men will be cruel and dismissive of women to make themselves appear stronger and to admit you do not know something is unthinkable. It doesn't matter how much we speak of love and tolerance and the life of the prophet. Children do not do as we say, they do as we do, and when they see us rein in our most beautiful and human sides in pursuit of status symbols and "networks" and "honor," they will grow up anxious and ungenerous. How can they not? When you have been taught from the age of two that you have to fight for a place at the table, you have to impress those who have power, you have to behave unnaturally and be measured against others, how can you possibly believe in the abstract idea of universal abundance?
What do you want him to grow up to be, someone asked me, a hippie? No, I want him to be a good human being. If he becomes one in spite of a fancy school, more power to him, but as a mother, I will always, always resist.