Friday, August 9, 2019

Fall for Anything

In the spirit of Toni Morrison, I just gotta write, y'all.

So. My oldest daughter started (public school) kindergarten the other day.

Now, anyone who knows my deepest, most personal feelings--and of course that would be no one, since I'm a scorpio, or...whatever--knows how heavily just stating the above weighs on my heart.

Even before I ever had children I was adamant that they would be home schooled or educated in some other capacity that does not involve the foolery that often comes with the US public school system.  I've been through it, I've worked in it, so I feel pretty justified in acknowledging it as foolery.  Generally speaking.

Not subjecting my children to a lot of the miseducation, lies, suppression, and programming that comes along with it was a primary goal.  Yet, when the father of the children--yo husband who also knows about the foolery--has a differing idea around it all, you sometimes find yourself in a position of concession, particularly when you've moved to a "good neighborhood" and a "good school district" that your husband feels will benefit the children greatly.  Fine.  She can go.  Plus, this is Hawai'i. Surely it won't be as worsem (<<< southern talk)  as in other places.  Although I fought it internally for all the months leading up to this point and my heart still isn't settled, she went.  I know it won't kill her, and given her analytical and inquisitive capacity that I will not allow to be subdued, she'll wade through the b.s. with my assistance.   Plus, homeschooling always has been and will continue to be a part of her experience.

That being said.  We arrived at the school for the first half-day. I entered the room with my baby and looked around to get an idea of what all this is going to be about, as I have read much about what 5-year-olds must go through now days in order to meet certain educational criteria set forth by a bunch of people who are maybe trying to keep up with what more educationally advanced countries have going on in terms of public education, yet who really aren't paying attention and are still pretty off base. 

Nonetheless, she's there for it.

Now, I had previously attended a parent orientation for new kindergartners, during which time a lot of my anxiety was abated. I mean, no, it wasn't going to really be anything like the awesome, awesome, AWESOME play and nature-based children's program that she has attended for the past year, but I was assured that 1.) they wouldn't kill her and 2.) they had a range of enriching elective courses that many other local schools lack  that even the kindergartner's would participate in such as foreign language (which turns out not to be too foreign given that the language is Japanese, and we live in a predominately Japanese community where the language seems to be spoken regularly by adults and children alike!), Hawaiiana, music, technology, and STEM.  Plus possible after school activities include everything from mindfulness and mediation to hula to chemistry/zoology/STEM/Robotics & coding.  We're here for it all.  In fact, can she just show up after school ends for those programs??

Happiness! On her birthday at the awesome play center in her handmade unicorn dress.

After the orientation, I had one question for the counselors who were in attendance: Do these teachers have the students saying the Pledge of Allegiance as part of their morning routine?  "Not necessarily," I was told.  Apparently each teacher chooses what will constitute the morning-time process in their classroom. It sounded nothing like what my peers and I were subjected to day in and day out as part of my public school education growing up in Louisiana, as a morning "helper" would stand in front of the intercom system down in the office and lead us all in a slow and dragging recitation of, "I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America............" before going on to read what was on the lunch menu for the day.

The programming is complete, as I and likely others reading this post can recite those word backwards, forward, up to down and sideways.  But that's not programming I want for my children.  My mother didn't know any better than to have me go along with the program, but thankfully the sacrifices she and others made for me have allowed me to know better.  And, as folk like to say, when you know better, you do better. 

The counselor's words made me feel assured that this mindless and blind recitation was not part of the programming that their school was doling out in general.  Well, my assurance was premature.  On the first day, I learned from the teacher that, yep, the Pledge of Allegiance would be how they would start their morning.  Immediately in my mind, I'm like...

Skeeeeeeeeeer!! Pump the brakes!


Hol' up, now!







Just whyyyyyyy! It is SO very unneccessary and just holds too much historical and cultural weight for certain groups of people.   These are babies.  Why must y'all start already with this indoctrination?  At 8:05 in the morning? Come on, now.  Give them a chance to grow, see, and learn and decide how they want to relate to it all.  


And, y'all still wanna act like Hawai'i isn't a stolen kingdom???  Why y'all way out here in the Pacific carrying on in this way?


Puh-leeeeaaase miss me with the shallow and basic arguments sprinkled with key words and content like "patriotism" and "if you don't like it go somewhere else" and "you trying to say you hate America?" and whatever other kool-aid and honey bun meaningless, repetitive nonsense y'all like to throw out there when any opposition to the brainwashing comes up.  We're too far along in the game for any and all of that to still be the square folk choosing to stand on rather than having some real dialogue. 

These are all things I thought. But really, I don't even think the latter was relevant, considering the cultural background of her teacher, but I still thought it in the spirit of the regular ol' b.s. that comes up when people take a stand against oppression.

Not so happy.  Same dress. Kindergarten, Day 1.  *Siiiiggggh*...

I just can not have my baby doing that.  I just can't.  So, I explained to the teacher and my child that she (my child) is to remain seated when it's taking place.  Still, my spirit wasn't settled knowing she'd be in the classroom hearing those words out of context everyday with no in-depth understanding of what they even mean, as I'm not even ready to take the conversation there with her yet.  So, I then emailed the principal with a letter that explained my concerns, talked about history/culture, and said some other stuff about true education. My request was to stand outside of the classroom each morning with my child--or something--until that ritual was done.   His reply was as

Thank you for your thoughtful email. While I do believe that there's a place for this morning ritual  in our schools, I do want to be mindful of other viewpoints and positions when it comes to participating in the pledge of allegiance. If you feel Wangari would not be comfortable sitting down during the pledge, I'm confident we can find an appropriate accommodation. As for your other suggestion, I'm not so sure having her stay outside with you until it's done is sending her the right message. If you don't mind, let me work with Mrs. --- and see what we can come up with.

Once again, I truly appreciate your message and will get back to you shortly. Looking forward to working with you and your family.
Ok. I can get with that. Cause goodness knows when I left that school after having cried with my baby who didn't want to stay, I was bout to go tell her daddy, "I'm homeschooling her whether you like it or not and whether this is one of the "best schools" or not, dammit!"  Either that or try to sell an organ in order to send my baby to the nature-based Montessori school in the other direction down the street just to avoid this type of nonsense.  Yes, I can be passionate, intense, and relentless but I told y'all earlier I'm a scorpio.  Or whatever.

Y'all. This is all on the first day of school, which was only a few short hours.  But I recall someone I really admire always saying, "Get in early, get in deep." I had to let it be known up front how I feel about this and--if only for my own child-- break up the monotony and thoughtless, repetitive actions that have potential to lead to docility.

I will write a letter with the quickness.  In fact, the director from my girls' play/nature based children's center that I spoke highly of earlier informed me in an email today that she'd managed to have a particular high-health risk meat product removed from their lunch menu.  Back in May when I learned that they had switched providers for their food program and that the new company would serve said meat product, I had to let them know that I'd be sending my babies with food from home on the days that it was served and that they should highly reconsider giving that to the children in general.  A few weeks later, she wrote me to say that she'd had the number of days it was served reduced. I was pleased with that, as it went from maybe twice a week to about three times a month.  Fewer days that I had to scramble to put together lunch on the days they attended, as I was fine with them eating there on the days the product wasn't served.  Today in an email to me she said:

Also, I was able to get the ---- removed from the menu, hopefully starting in beginning of Fall.
Then after I responded, she replied:
And their prep of it was yucky too 😯

I'm just really sharing all of this to say that it is imperative that we speak out against the things that we know in our spirits are not right. It can certainly be frightening being out there on a limb alone--as this is what so often comes with the territory when others are complacent or uncomfortable saying what they might feel in their hearts.  But we really just have to do it. 

When things like this come up, I always, always think of what Nas said:

We know too much now, and we've seen too much now.  So, ain't nothing gon stop us now.  
"Just trying to fight for what's real."


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