May 30, 2014
I’m was in the office at work with my boss and a coworker, and I do not even remember how the topic of conversation has turned to public schooling vs. homeschooling. But it has. My coworker starts in on an anecdote, and I have a bad, bad feeling about where this is going.
“We had a homeschooled girl in my high school chemistry class. She was like 12. She was just so far ahead.”
(Maybe not. Sharp intake of breath. Slightly too-long pause.)
“But she was so awkward. And it made the whole class awkward, and it was just awkward to have her there.”
And here we are. At the moment in which, prior to this, I had actually thought that my acceptance in this place, to these people, wasn’t based on me passing myself off as the right kind of person instead of the wrong kind.
The awkward kind.
But it was. And I am. She hadn’t realized, in the way that people usually don’t stop to think whether it’s possible that the people they’re about to mock or denigrate are actually the people they’re talking to.
And I don’t want to start a really nasty fight right then in front of my boss, so I say something moderate and reasonable-sounding about how what really matters is not whether a kid is homeschooled or not, but whether they’ve been isolated or allowed to have outside social opportunities. How some homeschooling families actually just isolate their kids, and that’s wrong, but as long as they’re giving their kids chances to interact with other groups…choir, scouting, church groups, music lessons, art classes…
…instead of “Fuck you very much.”
And I didn’t say what I actually should have, either…in the interest of starting my shift on time and also…not having an awkward argument in my boss’s office.
It’s not a sin to be awkward.
Can we stop talking about it like it is?
A 12-year-old girl hasn’t done anything to you by being awkward, or by taking advantage of her legal right to a free and appropriate public education while awkward.
While we’re at it, can we also stop using “awkward” as a euphemism for incompetent, irritating, immature, overbearing, invasive, inappropriate, or probably autistic but we can’t be seen as scorning someone for being actually disabled so we’re gonna say they’re “awkward” which is obviously just a personal failing that’s fine to use an excuse for their ostracism?
Here’s another newsflash: I know a lot of people who in fact went through 13 years of mainstream public schooling, who are still awkward people. Because it actually isn’t being confined in a cell-block building with a limited number of people, exactly your own age, for over a decade, isolated from your community and adult company, and subjected to sufficient peer pressure to just stop being different, that makes you non-awkward. It’s already possessing a manner of speech, body language, common interests, and gender presentation that’s consistent with those of the vast majority of other people. It’s having a native language of social engagement that is the same as most people around you.
I served my full term in the public school system, I went to the second-largest high school in my state, and I followed that with four years at one of this country’s most regularly top-ranked party schools.
I am still an awkward person. And if you thought I wasn’t, you just haven’t seen me in the right—or the wrong—situation. But I guarantee you it wasn’t lack of ridicule or social pressure to be anything other than what I was that caused this.
It also isn’t being allowed to do your academic work outside of a classroom setting, at a pace that works for you, that makes you awkward, because plenty of non-awkward people do that.
I’d really like people to consider, before the next time they scorn a kid for being awkward, or homeschooling or unconventional schooling for making kids awkward, that they are likely committing a fundamental chicken/egg fallacy.
A homeschooled kid probably isn’t awkward because they were homeschooled.
They are probably homeschooled because they are awkward.
Because they have probably already been forced out of the school system by bullying and abuse or discrimination, or because the school couldn’t or wouldn’t meet their academic needs.
(Being academically precocious: also not a sin.)
I mean, mandatory, universal public school attendance wasn’t even a widespread thing in this country until the early-mid 20th century. Were we really just a nation of incredibly awkward people until the 1920’s or so?
Even if it really were homeschooling that caused awkwardness, I would so much rather a child of mine be awkward than a whole lot of other things that are nowhere near as socially stigmatized as awkwardness: Mean, bigoted, superficial, callous, snide and scornful towards people different from or more vulnerable than themselves.
I’ll take awkwardness any day.
May 26, 2014
In Athens, GA this weekend for my best friend’s wedding yesterday. Had some lovely sunset clouds last night after an unexpected thunderstorm forced us to move dinner and dancing inside on extremely short notice, but it all worked out.
May 19, 2014
Is the Neapolitan night too quiet for her now,
Does she lie awake listening still
in vain for the melancholy thing’s watchful singing
in her cowslip bed
Watch her young husband’s slumber untroubled by memory
of ocean winds in the reeds,
squalls across the wild sand.
Will she ever be able to sleep not sensing
the gaze of a thousand feral and delicate voices.
Her feet are growing soft.
Her ladies dress her in the gray morning.
At breakfast she is learning
the weight of porcelain, silver,
brocade and whalebone, and ceremony.
Is the very silence of their desertion like freedom
to the spirit, she wonders, like peace?
Or does Ariel also not know
what to do with her own hands anymore?
(You ever suffer that experience when looking through old writing, when you cringe and go “I can’t believe I wrote that?” I just had the opposite experience finding this. I wrote it a few years ago. I was working on a production of The Tempest at the time. I found it while looking through old writing for various submissions, and loved it so much all over again I couldn’t believe I wrote it.)
May 10, 2014
If I may engage in some excuse-making for my recent absence from writing…I’ve been working for the past couple years on a new media project which I’m very proud of and excited about, and we just finished filming our third installment, the WordPlay Shakespeare edition of Romeo and Juliet, which took up most of my past month.
Here’s another good preview in which our director and publisher/producer talk a bit about the aim of the project. Besides making Shakespeare less daunting for students in general, one of the things we’re hoping is that students with all kinds of learning differences and learning disabilities might find this a useful form of support.
It takes the actors some time to get used to working on the white cyc…it’s a pretty disorienting experience. Apparently human brains think corners are a useful thing….
A great snapshot by my ASM from the filming of the opening fight between the Montague and Capulet servants.
Pictured: Carman Lacivita, Kristin Villanueva, Drew Ledbetter
Photo by Hannah Barudin
Me in the studio, watching the script, and probably telling somebody to do something. Look at that gorgeous spreadsheet on my computer….
Photo by Alexander Parker
Romeo and Juliet will likely be available by the end of summer/early fall. A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth are already available on iTunes!
It’s been a fascinating thing to work on as a stage manager as well…both in learning to work in an entirely different medium, and very different capacity than what I’m used to doing, and in getting to help make something so permanent in the world.