I went to my son’s school on Saturday for ‘open day’. It was my very first one I’ve ever been to in a boarding school so I didn’t know what to expect. What we got was a lecture about giving kids phones, PSPs and too much money. Then we got to meet with the teachers to discuss performance. Now maybe I’ve watched too many movies, or read some weird books but in my head, discussing your child’s performance goes pretty different than the actual reality. First of all, most of the subject teachers didn’t even know my son’s name. I find that fucked up because even when my son was in public primary school; the teachers knew his name. they knew who he was and they were like forty students in a class. So when just two or three of his subject teachers could tell me something personal about him…it disturbed me. The others just reassured me that he caused no trouble in class. I mean yeah; I’ve met him. I know he’s not a trouble maker. But what can you tell me about any talent he’s displayed, level of intelligence, strengths, weaknesses? Nothing? All you can tell me is that he’s a good boy? Wow, seriously not impressed.
And then well, we went to see the art teacher in another block and my son showed me the work that Form Fours had done. One of the pictures was a reproduced Banksy. So I point that out to Chris and he shrugs and tells me, “Its not like anyone around here would know.”
“But why though?” , I wonder with despair. This is a good school; they have access to the internet. Assumedly, the art teacher keeps up with developments in the art world? No? apparently all she cares about is hitting the benchmarks that indicate ‘pass’ or ‘fail’. I asked about expression. Are the boys able to express themselves through their work? And she’s like, not yet; we haven’t reached that point of the syllabus. We’re still learning about lines and where colours come from and other bullshit that have nothing to do with art. I was an art student in school. My very first assignment was ‘paint a picture’. Now they’re learning about lines. They’re being told that there is what is expected of them, and anything else indicates failure. It seriously broke my heart. I’m pretty sure if I wrote Between Deathand Heaven as a literature project it would get an F for ‘failure to stay within the lines’. God forbid you come up with something original; its all about reproducing and regurgitating. So I told my son to listen to the teacher, to do as he’s told; but at the same time to understand that what he was doing wasn’t art/literature/learning. It was the production of a robot who will toe the line. So if that’s not what he means to be he might have to find other ways to colour outside the lines. I took his phone and found some art accounts for him to follow on instagram. I urged him to use that ridiculously expensive 4G device to do more than surf porn and play games. He would have to be in charge of his own learning. He gets me. My son gets me, and he gets what I’m saying. I’m grateful.
I feel sorry for the rest of y’all children though.
You might wonder why this is such a big deal to me; maybe you don't get it? Its about how we see the world; how we are trained to see the world. whether we can hold more than one possibility in our minds at the same time. I wrote a story for the East African Friday Feature reimagining the Jesus and Mary Magdalene story and someone commented that Mary Magdalene was Jesus' girlfriend. And its because we can't really grasp the concept of a man and woman hanging out, interacting closely, without having sex with each other. We have not been socialised to imagine other possibilities. I see it now and then when people make assumptions about me and my son's father. No way we could just be co-parenting...something more must be going on for it all to 'make sense'. We like to keep our minds so small; yet the universe is so large.