My daughter really wants me to participate in a research project at UVM. I agreed to do my part. For the first task, I had to do an online survey that asked me my perceptions on how I treat people.
I always worry that I gave the wrong answer. Even though it’s asking for my feelings about what I do right now. I should know, right?
But here’s the catch. It had to do with whether I thought I was racist or not. It also asked questions about honesty. So have I ever let someone take the fall for me? Yes. Would I refuse now to have someone be blamed for something I did? I want to say yes. But under the right conditions, would I really refuse? So by contemplating these questions, I gave researchers insight into how parent of family No. whatever says he/she answers questions untruthfully, and then goes on to perception.
And then they asked me to do the matching game where good is on one side and bad is on the other, and you are supposed to click the right button as fast as you can. Then it’s matched up with race. Then they switch the race and the qualifier. And you can’t help but mess up.
The ultimate survey has to do with how my child interacts with others different from herself.
It hurts to think this way.
What did I teach my child? What kind of example am I setting? Was Avenue Q more than just a little right?
My husband got a book a couple of years ago (that he confesses he still hasn’t read) called Bowling Alone, about how we are as a society becoming more disconnected with our community. You can read an excerpt at that link.
But this cultural collapse does not reflect the life of most of my students. They are way heavily involved in their own communities and families.
And yet I spend a lot of time worrying about them because they are not becoming involved in the school community.
Research shows that kids who are involved in school socially tend to have reasons to stay. Those who are not don’t have so many reasons. Check out this survey. How many of these reasons can be traced back to not being involved socially.
And yet on this stupid survey that I just took, I was asked to come up with a list of 10 of my closest friends.
That’s the thing.
Very few people count in that “closest friends” ring. So I was supposed to list initials of 10. If I couldn’t think of any more, I was supposed to put XX. And then in the next part, the survey asked me to look at the initials and mark whether any of my friends I listed was black, bi-racial, obese or disabled. But because I had only listed 3… Best I could do is bi-racial.
I know more than 10 people I would call friends.
But not “closest friends.”
Am I being too discrete on my definitions?
And then I look at myself and what I hope for my students and I see that my social involvement does not reflect what I’m trying to magically make happen for recent immigrants who don’t speak English.
But the whole system is set up for those native English speakers. And if you don’t fit in that group, you miss out on a lot.
Dances. Plays. Sports. Clubs. Prom. Yearbook. School newspaper. And even advisories and our Year End Studies program that we started to mix up the population so we could bring more school spirit and community back into school.
But the thing is that just because you bring all those little horses to water, it doesn’t mean they will drink. We can plan whatever grand schemes we want to to mix up our populations, but it doesn’t mean they can cross those great social divides.
School has traditionally been the place where American students live and learn. Not just learn.
But school belongs at school. And home belongs at home. Teachers don’t regularly come to your house and check on you.
But that’s not the way it was for most of my students in refugee camps.
This system is weird. And daily I feel we are trying to put square pegs in round holes.