As I approach my new job working part-time as a teacher and part-time for the district office, I find myself remaining silent when people suggest it is our duty to use pencils to "prepare kids for the industrial economy." It's the Guilded Age, the day of steel and factories and information spread worldwide via telegraph and so pencils should prepare students for the twenty-first century, right?
We don't have electricity in our home. The grid is new and I don't trust it. No telegraph or telephone. Off the tele and if they someday invent a tele-picture or tele-image or tele-vision, why, I'll probably avoid that, too. No photographs. I don't want my daughter growing up to believe the lies of an advertisement age. I don't want her to believe her self-worth is the result of what girdle she buys.
We have a garden. Dirt and water makes mud. Mud and creativity make clay. We create - whether it's pots and pottery or soup and salad - but we are never under the impression it came from us. Perhaps the greatest gift I can give my daughter is the notion of grace; the concept that we never earned any of it.
We've been moving slowly from an extractive and consumeristic domestic economy (read: home) to one of creativity and sustainability. I don't pretend that it would work for everyone. I'm not pretending that we have it all together, either. I still buy the hay to feed my horse. I make a money with ideas, often ideas that I'm asked to sell rather than ideas that students need. We use pencils and talk about ideas and that's fine. It really is. But I still want kids to dig with their fingers, to plant a seed, to study life.
Still, some day our nation will see the damage of the factories, especially in schools. We'll see the down side of the bell schedules and the rote memorization and the packaged meat worksheets and the whole notion of a teacher as a robotic arm of the machinery.
We'll want a new model for living and perhaps a new model for education. I'm hoping they'll look back a bit, over their shoulders if need be. In another century, I hope they'll still have a place in their public memory for the one-room school house I had and the tight-knit community of my hometown in Kansas. I hope, before building something more futuristic, they'll consider the options of creativity and sustainability.