Online school has begun in earnest, and we are astonishingly busy. It feels like we will never have a return to kids being away for the day, but we opted to keep both of them at home because the idea of returning while infections and deaths have not abated is just not an option we would consider. I don’t believe this to be a moment when I can say that every opinion has equal value, and since it’s my blog, I shall just be clear that I am stifling dissent here right now, and am not going to have a distanced chat about how to come to an agreement with fellow parents.
The year feels unstable. With a tense election mere weeks away, there is an added prudence to staying the eff home. For A, the chaos of a return to school, only to have it taken away (whether due to COVID or political turmoil) would be worse than the upset he has been trying to absorb for the past seven months. I am astonished at the era my children are growing up in, and there is no tangible way to tell A how the larger global and national forces are influencing his life. All he can do is endure, and try to hold onto the materiality of our presence, and the disembodied fragments of remote learning and family Zoom, to make a system in his head. I keep telling myself that no one looked at the kids who survived World War Two and said, But you skipped pre-Calc! What a waste of these years! Hah. They were grateful the kids lived, and we don’t think of their generation as being uneducated by any stretch of the imagination.
We have all had to make some very drastic changes in our lives to adjust to this new state of being. When one is to be grateful for life at any cost, then every cost is what vulnerable populations have to pay. I am not willing to divulge personal details about A, so will just say that if life as we know it ever comes back, he will be one of the people who deserves a party. And everyone better wear party hats. And drive him around in a limo. With chocolate glazed doughnuts on doilies. While he bops to Radio Zindagi.
Zindagi (or life) is a gift, not just from the universe to us, but from each one of us to one another. As we now know so poignantly, the breath that flows between us is very powerful. The quality of that life matters too, and I don’t just mean for the beautiful and the wealthy.
It is well meant, but many people have suggested keeping mainstream kids at home, and allowing for the youngest grades and special ed kids to return to school first. I appreciate the sentiment, but it is inadvertently a way of placing our already marginalized special ed kids at the highest risk, and I don’t want my child to be a guinea pig in this endeavor.
I’ve heard from people whose kids attend private schools that they feel comfortable sending their kids to those, since class sizes are small, and creative distancing solutions are easier to implement. But I want to say something to those parents here:
So many of you are trying to stand for social justice these days. So if these private schools are “not as diverse as they could be,” and that includes race, disability, LGBTQ and other identities, why do you even think of those schools as an option for your own children? Does justice stop at the idea of your own child’s education being delayed by the current circumstances? If you do not see it that way, and you can envision, even during normal times, a learning environment for your children that regularly keeps out those who are “not a good fit,” then you too have much thinking to do.
I am writing this piece after reading “Waldorf Schools Are Inherently Racist Cults: Or, Why I Wouldn’t Drink the Kool-Aid” by Jennifer Sapio.* It reminded me of how angry someone online became with me years ago when I said that the Waldorf schools’ refusal to admit special needs students was problematic. I thought their approach was cultish back then, and the racist ideas of its founder do not surprise me in the least. A lot of people have Intersectional Bigotry!
Inclusion is not something that only marginalized families should be invested in. Everyone should be. The world is set up so that change happens when the majority is willing to change. So…change.
People don’t want to, though. They “like the ideas of Waldorf.” They choose Waldorf-inspired environments. They use the teaching methods at home. There doesn’t seem to be a cancel culture here. Waldorf is safe. Your children can still grow up feral and innocent, shaped by a pristine pedagogy that is lifted above the dregs of public schooling. And if we separate the pedagogical tools from the value system, then even liberals can partake.
The more deeply we study our own complicity, the more we are met by our own dissonance. We say we stand for certain values, but our actions say something else. I am guilty of that too. It is what we do with these moments of realization that matters. What actions will we take to mitigate the harm we have wrought?
Sapio, Jennifer. “Waldorf Schools are Inherently Racist Cults: Or, Why I Wouldn’t Drink the Kool-Aid.” Medium, June 13, 2020, https://medium.com/age-of-awareness/waldorf-schools-are-inherently-racist-cults-91193d1fbef6.