A Kindergarten Line is Straight and Silent!

The education of a child is an interesting thing. It is hard to give your child to the public school system, especially when you don’t have all that much faith in its ability to actually educate your child in things that you feel are of value.

I will point out that most often this is not the teachers’ fault. Teachers are wonderful and amazing at a pretty thankless job. Our society’s stance on teachers is a topic for another day. Suffice to say that most teachers just do their best, and usually their best is pretty amazing. We’re not talking about teachers right now.

There is much more to the education of a child than just learning facts. Among other things, they need to learn how to interact with people, handle socializing, and other basic common practices of the society they live in. On of these things includes lines.

Now, I have heard several arguments over the years about how the current public school system teaches our kids all the wrong things. How it hasn’t changed in format for a century or more, how it doesn’t prepare kids now for the jobs of the future, how it is meant to train kids for jobs that no longer exist, to crush creativity, independence and self respect. And, frankly, to one degree or another, I agree with several of these stances. Our Education needs a serious overhaul in so many, many ways.

It is interesting, too, how small things in life, small habits and ways of thinking, can translate in to much larger things later. The small habit of positive thinking can turn a life around, where as allowing yourself to tell ‘white lies’ or small falsehoods may some day lead a person into a large mess. So, too, can be the things our kids are either overtly or inadvertently taught in schools.

My oldest son came home from school the other day, distraught. He’d have the worst. Day. Ever. Not only did he get a nose bleed during first recess, but when they lined up for lunch and he was lucky enough to get almost the front of the line, “M” cut in front and then pushed him out of line. To add insult to injury, all the kids behind him insisted that he’d gotten out of line and they jeered him to the back.

But this isn’t just his story. I volunteer at this same school with the Kindergartners. Their teacher usually has them line up in ‘line order’ which is to say, alphabetically. There is never any fighting. However, when they get done at their ‘special’ classes (i.e. Computer lab, art, singing) those teachers pick someone to start the line and ‘everyone lines up behind.’ This wouldn’t seem all that bad, except that a child who might be near where the line starts, but can’t quite get there as fast as the other kids pushing and running to line up, or a kid that gets there but they’re in a bunch so he’s standing on the side of the magic line, also gets jeered and ridiculed to the back of the line.

And the teacher goes along. “Sally, you need to get in the back.” Oh, she speaks kindly enough, but you can see the shock on their faces every. single. time. they get called out to go to the back, because they got squeezed out of line.

Now, this isn’t the world I live in. Maybe I’m naive, or living in a bubble, but when I go to the grocery store and am standing in line, and my 3 year old runs off and I have to step 3 feet away from the line to bring her back, the other women don’t scoff and snort and say “You got out of line! To the back!”  NO! They smile, they understand, the grasp the concept that I was in line before them. (I will add that I’ve never been shopping on Black Friday before. Seems like all bets are off then.)

The line is there to wait our turns. We understand that if a person is in front of us, that is their place in line. Sometimes, we even allow people to cut because we are compassionate. Heck, sometimes we even do nice, sociable things, like chat with the people we’re in line with. Or at least give them a smile. And, *gasp* sometimes the line is more like a grouping of people who generally know who goes next, but it’s no big deal if they’re not first.

But not in school. After all, they teach the kids to sing out that “A Kindergarten line is STRAIGHT and SILENT!” And that your place in that line is only secured by you complying and defending your zone, and if you want that spot ahead of you, you’d better shove that person aside! Or, hey, if you’re mad at them, you can embarrass them in front of your peers, and your peers will shove them down for you!

Shut up. Conform. Push others around. As long as you don’t get caught, you’ll get away with it. I know it’s not the lesson they mean to teach, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s the one they’re learning.

And we wonder why our society is so messed up?

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