Danielle Bean, a wife and mother of eight, is editorial director of Faith & Family magazine and author of My Cup of Tea, Mom to Mom, Day to Day, and most recently Small Steps for Catholic Moms. Read more of her blogging at Faith & Family Live and DanielleBean.com.
At her Coxsackie-Athens High School graduation ceremony, valedictorian Erica Goldson delivered an anti-schooling speech that must have raised more than a few eyebrows in the audience:
But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.
Wow. And there’s more:
For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse, “You have to learn this for the test” is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades.
For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake.
As a product of public education myself, I know that there is a lot of truth in Erica’s description of the sad state of modern education. But I also know that it does not have to be so.
Not all parents can or should homeschool, but all parents can and should take seriously their God-given role as their child’s primary educators. As we read in CCC 1653:
The fruitfulness of conjugal love extends to the fruits of the moral, spiritual, and supernatural life that parents hand on to their children by education. Parents are the principal and first educators of their children. In this sense the fundamental task of marriage and family is to be at the service of life.
Whether our children learn at home or in classrooms, we need to take responsibility for giving them a love of learning, for opening their hearts and minds to the truth, for empowering them to ask questions and develop their gifts as God wills them to.
It makes me sad to think that a bright and so obviously capable young lady like Erica Goldson managed to be “successful” in high school at what she feels was the cost of her humanity and true potential. I am not sure where she will be going to college, but I pray she will find truth and happiness in her future academic pursuits.
I pray, too, that her words to her fellow students, parents, and professional educators will not fall on deaf ears.