The alarm did not go off. Usually I would wake up anyway, but alas, my sleep-loving body still has not adjusted to the Daylight Savings Time Annual Cruel Trick. I woke up ten minutes before McKinley should be in school.
So he’s late, no big deal, right?
Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
But he’s just in Kindergarten, right? What could be the problem?
The problem: Attendance policies? A Parent’s Lackadaisical attitude towards Education? Constant colds this winter?
A few weeks ago I got a very pleasant letter from the Yancey County Board of Education threatening me with a Class 3 Misdemeanor if McKinley missed twenty-five days of school. Excused or Unexcused. And he will have to repeat KINDERGARTEN if he misses more than twenty-five days. They tell me, “This is a very serious matter. Contact your principal immediately.”
Rant: Every tardy counts as one third of a day! So whether McKinley is late one minute or two hours, well, that just doesn’t matter. The Policy States That A Tardy Is One Third Of A Day. So though he has only missed twelve days this year, his accumulation of tardies puts him at twenty days (yes, yes, my husband and I one of those perpetually non-punctual persons).
Who cares if he’s one of the top readers in his KINDERGARTEN class? Who cares that it’s just KINDERGARTEN? These kids are on a schedule that stretches all the way to the end of high school. Test preparation begins the day they step through that door. Testing, testing, testing. Learning becomes a job, not a joy. And that infuriates me. Because my son is intelligent and curious, filled with spirit and curiosity. And he was so excited about going to Kindergarten and learning to read. Now he can read, yes, but he already hates school.
This predicament that I’m in, which is not fear of a Class 3 Misdemeanor, which is not trying to get to school on time, which is not the threat of McKinley repeating Kindergarten (if they are stupid enough to do that, then I’ll find some other means of education). No, No, the predicament I’m in is this: if learning is, at age six, a job, a daily activity despised, then what is the underlying message my son is getting? That he is not the author of his own life? That life is a chore? That the test results are the most important thing? That his own genius spark (which I believe every child has) is subordinate to the goals of some entity which decides what is important to learn, and when he’s to learn it. And who cares if the daffodils are blooming, that the Natural world has its own lessons to teach, if he could just immerse himself in it? This is what matters: Get to school on time. Do your homework. Do it even if you hate it. Raise your hand. Stand in line. Sit still.