Horizon at Sandy Point

Friday, September 7, 2012

Schooling the parent

My son's a clown. But in the middle of all the jesting, the jokester occasionally puts the question that rocks my stature as a parent. Why didn't you send me to the other school, he asked the other day? Most of my friends went there. Your friends went there, he says pointedly. The other school seems to have produced a better pool for success in business, the professions, better networks. And it is a better school, isn't it?  He proceeds to name the persons he has relationships with, who went to the other school. And I add, uncles on both sides, and cousins. So why not, why indeed?

Sixteen years later, I didn't want to send you to a Catholic school seems a less than facetious response. Don't get me wrong it's not that I dislike Catholics, but I have - or had - strong feelings against the forms and norms of organised religion especially those that have a vested interest in worldly power. (Of course, the irony for the thinking man's church is how its liberalism empties out the church.) And toobesides, your father still feels oppressed by the lost years spent in a military Catholic boys boarding school in England, far away from family and protection from bullying boys or over-zealous Brothers. Spare the rod and spoil the child. Not!

The school that you did attend has a fine tradition of bright people, artists, a prime minister, athletes, sterling citizens, achievers, thinkers, I say. I am searching the synapses for the names of the business leaders who graduated from his school, but not a one comes to mind. Instead, I say, aren't you glad to bring something from somewhere else to your friends who all went to the other school? Aren't you glad to have made your own way, and I think of him coming to me in the O level year demanding a mathematics tutor or he would fail; me responding in horror how could you fail math, and finding the tutor (a retired woman from the other girls' school) who brought him in two terms to his distinction. Thinking as well of his doing all the A level subjects through his own initiative and private lessons and his being AWOL for the term that I lay sick in bed and moving house.

You are an independent thinker I say. At every juncture, you chose your own path. (How would I not know that he would be attracted to corporate structure, the world of cyphers and logic, in which every hard question has a simple answer; or that he would do so well in business numeracy that I can't even begin to imagine. How would I not know that two hippie parents must produce someone so fitted in, excelling, in the world! Hopefully, there's still hope for the daughter to save the world.)

That was me, he says, in response to the assertion that he brings something different to the pool he now swims in. The better school would have helped.

How could any parent know that the boy might have preferred the other school, the one where fewer of his childhood friends went. You could have asked me. I think I did ask, but the answer was a foregone conclusion.

And on to the next 28 years! The child is father of the man! *

Why don't you send me to the other school?

* William Wordsworth: My heart leaps up when I behold (1802)

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