The pressure to perform – stealing from our children

Perform or else

Each start of a school year I am surprised about the enormous pressure we dare put on our children. Such an amount of requirements we put on their shoulders. And if they fail to live up to our high expectations, we send them for assessment and evaluation, because something must be wrong.

No, we are wrong.

This is no Jesuit school … it’s worse

If I compare the pressures currently on my children and their friends to the school performance pressures I had to endure in my youth, I had a very comfortable life. And I went to a Jesuit school. Go figure. I had very clear standards to conform to, but the tolerance levels were quite clear and wide enough for a kid like me (a young Asperger as I would today be assessed) to be able to stay alive while not considering my life to be a living hell.

My children, and most of our children, have so much more pressure bearing down on them. Every. Single. Day. They are being assessed by their teachers and their surroundings on an almost permanent basis. And let’s be clear, that is weird. And wrong. But mostly weird.

Pressure makes no sense

Why is this so weird? Because it makes no sense whatsoever. An education should be a preparation for the world out there. Now, look outside. No really, go and take a look at what is happening. We are no longer living in an industrial society. Whether this is post-industrial, or knowledge, or whatever, that matters less, but it is no longer an industrial society. Yet we create and optimize a school system that is geared towards the “production” of perfectly compliant individuals that are almost standardized themselves. And standardized, they are easily replaceable.

Labeling the deviant

Those we fail to standardize, we need to assess, identify and treat. Why? I have no clue. Really, I cannot figure that one out. But yet we do. Perhaps because we are more and more afraid of everything that is divergent, of everything that does not fit within our very narrow band of tolerances. He moves too much? ADHD. He cannot focus? ADD. He is on occasion overly aggressive? Yet another acronym.

Jeopardizing our and their future

Only the high performance kids are let into our society. But that is where we make the mistake. Because these interchangeable Stepford Kids won’t be the ones making the difference in our knowledge economy, in our post industrial world. Rather, the kids that can be creative, that think outside the box or see the box and start ripping it up will be the ones making a difference. Look at Temple Grandin, for example.

Our education is currently not running to where the proverbial educational puck will be, nor where it currently is. Rather, it is running to where it was about 100 years ago, improving its systems all the time.

But, in my opinion, our educational system is optimizing itself into oblivion.