Parable

There was once a popular, admittedly imperfect blogger. She was well-educated, with a graduate degree from a select private university and a bachelor’s degree from a well-known State University. She often engaged difficult topics, and provided thoughtful, detailed descriptions about why she would engage specific subjects and topics. She was trying to make it as a freelance writer, and had several online curricula vitae publicly available at a few different social networking and career search websites. Her CV listed her educational profile, including the school names. She is actively involved in the State School’s alumni association, but in no way employed by the State School.

Someone in the PR department of her undergraduate school found her blog, and took issue with some of her posts, either the way they were written, or the material the blogger engaged. Little research would be needed to connect these blog posts and this blogger to the school in name. Several days later, the blogger received a letter stating:


 

“Dear Ms. Blogger, It has come to our attention that you are trying to make a living as an imperfect, but courageous writer. We wish our alumni could pursue any career they want in whatever manner they wish without risk of The State University being embarrassed by their efforts. Regrettably, we are somewhat alarmed by the prospect of being identified as the school at which you were educated. We prefer to be identified and associated only with alumni who have successful established careers, and no grammatical errors or potentially embarrassing issues addressed in their published works. We want you to become a writer whose works we would be proud to be associated with, and would like to offer some instruction towards that mutual goal. We advise you to remedy the following concerns.
First, you need to be in control of who and what sort of advertisements are visible on your blog. There must be no alcohol-related ads, and no allergy-related ads, and nothing related to guns, mental illness, or violence as these are particularly sensitive topics for our campus. We would advise you to make use of the PR editor we will provide to proofread every future article or post. If our staff is uncomfortable with the nature of the post, we will make suggestions about how you can remedy the issues of concern, and you can either adopt these suggestions, or will post an addendum at the bottom of the article stating: “I, Ms. Blogger, published this post without the express approval of my alma mater, The State University. All comments and opinions and subjects expressed in this post should be read with the knowledge that they are the express opinions of Ms. Blogger and not the opinions of The State University.”
You are, of course, welcome to pursue your writing career in whatever manner you wish, if you write under a pseudonym, rather than your name, which could be associated with The State University.
We ask that if you choose not to comply with the above recommendations you will remove The State University from your publicly visible curricula vitae, and may result in the withdrawal or suspension of the degree bestowed upon you by The State University.

Respectfully,
Jane Editor,
Director of Public Relations, The State University.”


 

How should Ms. Blogger respond?

Who is right? In what way?

What is the cost of doing relationship this way?

What issues arise in the context of this narrative?

What is your reaction to reading this narrative?

Please post comments below, as I hope for this to be a lively dialogue.

An open letter to my soon-to-be-kindergartener

Hi Love,

I read this Washington Post blog today about kindergarten “standards,” and skills testing that determines students’  placement on a continuum of readiness for public school. It made me sad and concerned me.

Your Daddy and I have debated on-and-off for almost a year whether to let you start kindergarten early (this Fall) or to wait until you are officially 5. You’ve always been small… and starting you early may make this an issue, when it has never been one in the past for you. You are very intelligent (even taking into account my presumed bias) and you’ve always demonstrated a distinct preference for interaction with older kids, if given the choice. You are already reading some words, and not quite 4 years old. You share well, take turns, and tolerate frustration (but not failure) pretty well. I know you could do it, and you might really love it.

For me, the decision was made when I toured a private pre-school/Elementary school in our area. It was a highly structured program, and the director proudly told me that the children there are reading and writing independently by kindergarten. Gulp. Was this a reality-check? Maybe you aren’t the genius I think you are. Maybe you’re just a little bit bright. Then I asked how they accomplished this lofty goal. He proudly spoke of the school’s nationally recognized curriculum, and that many of their kindergartners have been learning in their programmed environment since ages three or four. We then talked about the programs for the three- and four-year-olds. I asked about free play, and was told that free play was allowed during the transitional times from 7:30-9:00 am, and then after 3:30 pm for the kids with parents who were unable to pick them up after the curricular class time.

I just left that school feeling… heavy.

Your Daddy and I have deliberately chosen child-care settings that offered preschool curricula-based programming. You have thrived and excelled in these settings. Where you are, you practice writing letters and tracing things on a daily basis, but you are also given tremendous free time to play with your friends. And you are happy, well-mannered, and socially-adept.

That did it for me. No school for you! Well… not yet, anyway. I want you to have as long to just be a kid as you can. I want to shield you from arbitrary standards and the competition that is inherent in applying those standards. I want you to remain blissfully unaware of the “otherness” that flows from ratings and scores. I am confident that you are ready and would succeed in kindergarten if you began this Fall. But Daddy and I agree that you will not suffer for having one last year to play.

The above blog was a nail in the coffin for your early entrance into big school. You see… you will be graded, rated, tested and placed for (presumably) 13 years (at least). Currently, you are not mindful of your own successes or failures on a regular (much less daily or hourly) basis. You just are. You just do. You just play and learn by default. Let’s keep it that way.

When I was in kindergarten, the biggest concern I had was developing my next scheme for trying to get moved to Emily’s (Yes, Auntie Emily’s) class. The only distinct memory I have of that year is getting in trouble once, because I told my teacher I didn’t want to be in her class. In my defense, I had known Emily for 5 years, and Ms. Sanders (not her real name) was new to me! I had no loyalty to her. And this is as (I think) it should be. Play and learning valuable social skills of frustration management and how to make new friends. (“Hey Mom, I have a new best friend!”)

Daddy seemed most passionate about advocating for your regular (not early) entrance into kindergarten. And no wonder. You see, Kiddo, Mommy grew up quickly–forgetting all too early how to play. By the time I finished college play was a foreign matter altogether. And it took years of therapy (thank you Jewelanne, Trapper, Kindra and Andrew) and retraining (thank you Daddy) for me to dare enjoy it again. I still struggle to play, as evidenced by my antsy-ness after 10 minutes of playing cars, but I’m working on it. And I don’t want you to have to work this hard at it. I want you to play with reckless abandon.