As the glowing sparkles of the evening's fireworks fade into the night air, the last embers sizzling into the farm pond, I can not help but to pause a moment in that quick breath of silence and darkness. The first full week of summer for my children has come and gone in that last flash of gunpowder. A few days before they had been studying for their final tests and now they are running carefree through the grass of our farm, sprinting to the pool filled with cool mountain spring water, barefoot and carefree. They are not worried at all at what lies on the other side of summer, of what the coming school year has in store, only that the sun is high, the water is cold, and the ice cream stand is open.
Yet in this quiet moment all the trials, tribulations, and treacheries of the past school year hang heavy on the warm summer air, in my mind at least. As the school year ended, a short week ago, the board of ed decided, in what was initially called a "knee jerk" reaction to disgruntled parent input but was quickly morphed into a "a well-thought out and lengthy discussion based on data collected" to appease shocked parents on the other side of the aisle, to disband a special program for more advanced students. The program combined different studies and subjects into one period, thus students learned literacy through math word problems and science through designated reading assignments with technology thrown in for good measure and quite a lot of hands-on assignments. The program captivated the students but also saddled them with a heavy homework load and a plethora of major projects for independent, at-home study. It simply was not an easy course, challenging would fit best. But for students not in the class, the program was all fun and no work, field trips without the ensuing reports, experiments without the analysis, and they were missing out. And so the whining began, reaching a crescendo with the threats of lawsuits and private schools and political tactics.
It has become apparent, in this quiet moment, that being an "all-star" is ok for sports, even if we do not keep score. It is perfectly fine to tell a child that he or she is not good enough to make a team, that maybe next year, if they work hard enough, they may be able to make the cut. It is paramount to our children's future to overachieve in the realm of physical abilities. But to have a label of "advanced" in the classroom, for a child to have a challenging experience, to push them to excel in academics, to reward the hard work and dedication to studies, is detrimental to the whole school system. Within our educational system we should strive for mediocrity is what we were told as the school year ended, because "smart" is offensive to others. Practice for par on the field with educators turned coaches and see where that ends up.
I am struck dumbfounded in this moment. In the opening days of summer, I have had this absurdity thrust upon me to ponder during the steamy days ahead. To know I live in a community where adults, parents, supposed friends, would see fit to selfishly strip my children of their thirst for knowledge, their drive to excel in things more than a simple game, is slightly disconcerting. To have neighbors advance their kids by hobbling mine leaves more questions than answers and more than a bad taste in the schoolyard. For my kids it means little, the grass is green and freshly cut and tickles their toes. The summer sun is high in the sky and the pool is cool and inviting. They care not at all for the projects ahead, school can wait, summer is here. But for me, in this quiet second as the fireworks disappear like fireflies on the warm breeze, a shudder rides up my spine. The horror of the playground is much more than a summer movie and its coming all too soon.