Monday I attended my granddaughter’s “moving up” ceremony as she finishes fourth grade and moves into the middle school. It was the first time I had been in the local school system since my own kids finished.
The ceremony included four songs by the kids, which they did very well, and short speeches by the elementary school principal, the middle school principal, and the superintendent, before the kids received their certificates.
As I watched them cross the stage individually, shake hands, and position themselves on the other side of the stage, it occurred to me that they had learned a lot more than how to sing two-part harmony. Here are just a few of those things.
Fit in. From the time they first walk through the school door, children learn that they are not individuals, but one of many. They are separated from their families where they have their own identity and values, and become part of a group that must all adhere to a common set of standards. Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7)
Obey all adults. Any adult may tell a child what to do, and they are expected to obey, not question. This potentially prepares them for abuse, as this school and others in the area, have demonstrated. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14)
Responsibility for children changes hands at age five. The elementary principal shared an anecdote from a father when he dropped off his youngest of four children on her first day of kindergarten. As he headed for the door, he expressed a feeling that I’ve heard from many parents: “Free at last, I’m free at last.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
Flattery works. The middle school principal also shared an anecdote. As she spent some time with this group over the past couple weeks, one of the students told her she didn’t look old enough to be a principal. The principal assured us with a smile that this child would have a good future in “her” school. He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor Than he who flatters with the tongue. (Proverbs 28:23)
Be a jack of all trades and a master of none. Many years ago, I discussed this concept with a teacher who was dissatisfied with our school system. He shared this story, which exists in many different forms on the internet.
Once upon a time the animals had a school. The state created a curriculum that would meet all their needs, choosing four subjects: running, climbing, flying, and swimming. All the animals studied all the subjects.
THE DUCK The duck was very good at swimming, better than the teacher, in fact. He received passing grades in running and flying, but was hopeless in climbing, so they made him drop swimming so that he could practice climbing. As this damaged the webs on his feet, after a while he was only average at swimming, but average is still acceptable, and nobody worried much about it except the duck.
THE EAGLE The eagle was considered a troublemaker. In his climbing class he beat everybody to the top of the tree, but he had his own way of getting there that was against the rules. He always had to stay after school and write, “Cheating is wrong,” five hundred times.This kept him from soaring, which he loved, but schoolwork comes first.
THE BEAR The big, lumbering bear failed all his classes. They said he was lazy, especially in the winter. His best time was summer, but school wasn’t open then.
THE ZEBRA The zebra played truant most of the time because the ponies made fun of his stripes, and this made him very unhappy.
THE KANGAROO The kangaroo started out at the top of the racing class, but became discouraged when was told to move swiftly on all four legs the way his classmates did.
THE FISH The fish quit school because he was bored. To him, all four subjects were the same, but nobody understood that because they had never seen a fish.
THE SQUIRREL The squirrel got an A in climbing, but his flying teacher made him start from the ground up, instead of from the treetop down. His legs got so sore practicing takeoffs that he began getting Cs in climbing and Ds in running.
THE BEE The bee was the biggest problem of all, so the teacher sent him to Doctor Owl for testing. Doctor Owl said that the bee’s wings were too small for flying and they were in the wrong place.The bee never saw Doctor Owl’s report, so he just went ahead and flew anyway.
Which brings us to my main verse for today:
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
One commentary, which I can’t find at the moment, says that the Hebrew phrase “should go” more properly translates as “leans.” Instead of teaching our children how to fit in, flatter, and follow the crowd, we should help them develop their God-given talents. This can only be done successfully by the parents to whom they were given, not a public school system. For the views of a New York State Teacher of the Year on this subject, go here.