Failure

For much of my life I was pretty sure I was faking “it” — whatever “it” was.

Piano?  I would win competitions big and small, teachers (and judges) would ask me how many hours I practiced, and I would feel obligated to lie and  give them many more hours than I was putting in.  Suppose I really had practiced that many hours?  I could improve the mechanics, but I knew I would never have the true talent.

In high school I met HS Boyfriend and his best friend; they were two of the smartest people I have ever known, and I had them convinced that intellectually I was in their league.  I was not.  This is not self-deprecation, it is the truth.  I was really good at memorizing: if I could read it, I can remember it.  My ability to memorize pretty much anything got me through college and medical school — if nothing else, I had the mechanics of learning down.

Tonight, The Teenager mentioned the possibility of going to see the movie Lincoln — and the conversation deteriorated from there:

“Who was Lincoln?”

“A president.”

“Which century?”

After a long pause . . . .

“1500s.”

Wow.

The Teenager is in 10th grade, she has read about the Civil War in history texts as well as in fictional works.  We have discussed slavery, Civil Rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr., and yes, Abraham Lincoln — we have done our best to supplement the meager history offerings of the public school system, and clearly someone has failed.  I would love to blame “the school,” but that would be wrong.  The Teenager has failed, and it is not the school’s fault, nor is it our fault.  It is her fault, and her failure.

Which brings me to “faking it.”  She does her homework religiously, she attends classes, she takes her tests.  She is a straight A student.  I don’t know if she really believes she is a good student — I suppose it depends on what she believes are her goals and responsibilities, and how she defines “education.”  My daughter has an academic facade that can bear no scrutiny.

When is a child’s failure no longer the parent’s failure?  DH thinks he needs to keep plowing ahead until she is eighteen.  I do believe The Teenager will be reading parts of Battle Cry of Freedom over Christmas break.  Bless his heart, he was always an optimist.

Oxymorons

A very dignified Romney ram

. . . .  not to be confused with:

romneyn.  1.  One who demonstrates incompetence, lack of social conscience, and general disregard of at least 47% of the American population.  2.  One who is affronted by reality checks (see also, palinn.)

In other news . . . .  I am not sure what it means to be a “brainiac cheerleader” — from a breathless introduction by some news announcer, brainiac cheerleaders are “required” to have “advanced science degrees.”  And indeed, some do have these advanced science degrees: A dentist!  A Ph.D. in cellular molecular medicine!  A Ph.D. candidate in biomedical engineering!  But then, there’s the phlebotomist, and the financial analyst . . . .  A group of brainiac cheerleaders goes around the country performing cheerleading routines to “encourage” girls to study science.  Really?  If I were a young girl, I’m not sure what sort of message I am meant to be receiving, but as a woman with one of those “advanced science degrees” and mother of a teenage girl, I know what message am getting.  These women are  great examples of very smart women who think being smart and beautiful means also pandering to male fantasies.  I suppose that’s why  “mommy porn” along the line of Fifty Shades of Grey has been so depressingly popular.

CSA Share Week 15:  lettuce, cucumbers, green onion, onions, potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, chard, spinach, parsley (gave away), bell pepper, kohlrabi, broccoli, eggs

Recipes:  kohlrabi hash (kohlrabi, potatoes, green onions, onions), broccoli with polenta (from Simplicity from a Monastery Kitchen), spinach with raisins and pine nuts, chard tian (from Simplicity from a Monastery Kitchen)

Passive Voice

CSA Share Week 8:  kale, Chiogga baby beets, cilantro, green onions, scapes, zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, green beans, butter lettuce, Romaine lettuce

Recipes: Barley, Kale, and Kidney Bean stew (Vegetarian Planet); Gingered Beets (Greene on Greens); green beans sauteed with leftover Chinese Garlic Chicken

CSA Share Week 7:  chard, green onion, radishes, scapes, beets (gave away), zucchini, cilantro, butter lettuce

Recipes:  Chard Catalan Style, radishes added to leftover Chinese food, microwaved zucchini (The Teenager)

I remember the first time High School Boyfriend told me he loved me — he didn’t actually tell me he loved me, what he said was, “You are loved.”  And at that point, I really understood what “passive voice” meant.  This summer, The Teenager has been working on writing a decent essay, and this means massive  unlearning of  much of what passes for English education in public schools.  She is finally learning how to punctuate, learning how to organize a simple essay, learning how to read an article to find the thesis (hint, hint, read that first paragraph really carefully).  And she is learning all about passive voice.  I don’t care if it is a godsend for Ph.D. candidates writing their dissertations — it is lazy writing.

A few days ago, an American Historical Association newsletter link reminded me of how insidious the passive voice can be.  The article came from Richard Brody of the New Yorker, who posted this article on the German  government’s decision to use the passive voice for the Holocaust monument: “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.”  As Mr. Brody pointed out, murdered by whom?  I’m with him on his critique, that the vagueness of the term is disturbing and that Germany’s “. . . .  reduction of responsibility to an embarrassing, tacit fact that “everybody knows” is the first step on the road to forgetting.”

Every Child Left Behind

A few days ago, The Teenager asked me to proofread her English essay.  I got as far as the opening paragraph, and could not go on:

When reading Shakespearean literature, sometimes the reader gets confused at the complexity of the piece, but when examining the text at a closer angle there is a whole new level of understanding.  In Shakespearean times, the people were used to seeing people act out the plays and dramas, however now in current times the context of Shakespearean literature is not as clear to the reader.  With more understanding of the text, deepens the readers knowledge of the culture background Shakespeare has presented to us.  Finding different ways of approaching the text assists the reader understand the setting of Shakespearean writing.  Depicting the thoughts and actions of the characters in Shakespeare’s plays gives the audience a whole new level of perspective of Romeo and Juliet.  The way Shakespeare incorporates his time period and events gives Romeo and Juliet a whole new meaning that we understand through his literature.  The complex literature written by William Shakespeare gives the audience a new interpretation of his famous play, Romeo and Juliet by using social commentary, plot development, symbolism and imagery, and them to give the reader a better understanding of Shakespearean Literature. 

It is now two months to the end of school and the end of The Teenager’s first year in high school.  She has been a straight A student, and I just assumed everything was fine.  Little did I know that this particular piece is only the second essay her English teacher has assigned all year — in fact, only the second writing assignment of any sort since school began in August.  The words may be bigger and longer now than when The Teenager was in middle school, but her ability to string words and sentences together into a coherent whole has not improved.  I admit it: I have no idea what she has learned in her English class —  and I’m not sure she knows either.  If reasonably good students are also falling through the cracks, then who is not being left behind?  To which DH says, “No one is being left behind because no one is moving forward!”

If you keep telling your child how wonderful and talented and smart she is, how does she ever deal with the real world of judgment and hierarchy and rejection?  One of our nephews is down in the dumps because he has sort of lost out on the college sweepstakes: Stanford, his first choice, rejected him.  He has been getting messages of the sympathetic and consoling sort: “Their loss,” or “They don’t know what they’re doing,” and “You’re so talented,” etceteraetceteraetcetera.  The truth, of course, is that “they” are never going to know if they had a loss (and it wouldn’t matter anyway),  “they” do know what they’re doing, and he is in fact not that talented.  But since no one has asked my opinion, I keep my mouth shut.

I am not actually ragging on The Teenager this time, because I think the teacher and the school are to blame.  An “A” in English when she can’t write worth a damn — really???  When she was in the 4th grade, The Kid came home with a binder of material that the teacher had given the students for their semester-long history assignment.  Mr. G had used the example of his pioneering ancestor’s adventures during the California gold rush to talk about American expansion during the 19th century.  I thought this was a wonderfully creative and engaging way to teach history, but unfortunately The Kid never “got” it.  She was not alone in this, for apparently most of the kids did not understand the point of the stories and assignments.  Anyway, we looked at some of the handouts in the binder and found page after page of reading material liberally highlighted in yellow.  The Kid told us the teacher had told them to mark up “important” information . . . .  Not much has changed in the intervening years, apparently:

. . . .  except she has a lot more markers now.

Running into the Future

The Teenager has been taller than me for about two years; granted, I am the shortest woman I know, but still . . . .  She has been faster than me for much longer: her new PR in the 1 mile is now 5:47.  I wonder what it feels like to be so fast, whether it feels like freedom.  When she was 20 months old, we bought her a pair of shoes from a street vendor in China.  She stumped around in those shoes for over  a year — they were always a little loose because she went through a period when she did not grow at all.  And now, look at her fly!