"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Common Reading of the Insidious State

Dear Principal,

My child will be absent for three days to visit grandparents out of state.  Besides this form of notification (email) is there anything else that needs to be done to assure you take proper note of this absence?


Child's Parent


Dear Child's Parent,

Thank you for this communication.

Per School Board Policy students are allowed 10 excused/unexcused absences before any action would be taken.

This Student will be allowed out of school for three days and our Attendance Secretary will account for it.  Have a fun and safe trip!

Template Signature Line


Dear Policing Representative,

Let me offer some responses to your note believing that your only intention was to inform me of a policy directly related to the action I am taking as regards my child.  Also, let me state that I am offering this as a (reasonably informed) parent.  Again, as I believe instruction and correction must be allowed to move in many directions I hope you allow this from me as simply a "reading" that you might take into consideration and possibly integrate into your store of useful materials.

1. A response might be, "whatever" (or more politely, "thanks, whatever").  I wanted you to know something so that you wouldn't be concerned as regards a student in your daily charge being absent for an extended period and I needed you to acknowledge that you received this from me.  In other words, I might read this in an unthinking manner as achieving my purpose.

2. You offered an official limitation, "a policy," to me as a parent as regards the school and its ability to "take action" against me as a parent in consideration of my decisions as a parent.  In other words, similar to the standardized testing "opt out" responses, the state, through you, is making clear it can and will "take action" against a parental choice.  As the state makes the laws this action is declared "valid" and appropriate though clearly a form of bullying.  In short, you are asserting a "guardianship" right over my own "familiar" rights.

3.  This phraseology is revealing.  It is a little more than vaguely threatening if the reader is paying attention.  (Though I assert that I do not think this your intention, this very assertion of mine is irrelevant to the possibilites inherent in the reading of this text.)

4. I know that there is a kind of dictum from the State Dept of Education that is given a "local" imprimatur via the "elected" school board which uses attendance as a factor in how the state "grades" the school.  This seems a factor in your response.

5. I also know that this state is a lenient "homeschooling" state and it would not be in your best interest to encourage dissatisfaction in a parent with a child who "helps" your school statistics in those particular testing scenarios.  (Though I can't say how much "improvement" is on display as "evidence" of the great work of educational systems.)

So, I know enough to be able to read your message in many ways.  Would it be worthwhile to offer a parent a justification that might assuage the sense of "threat" in the message?

I would further say that I think your closing "well-wishes" is likely the thing that you personally want to say; that is, from you, a human being living among other human beings in a community where you will be seen and known, to me, the parent of the child and student, who is also a community member with ostensibly similar social goals.  The rest is institutional coercion for which I do not hold you responsible outside of the high bar that Thoreau sets for each of us in "Resistance to Civil Government."  (In that analogy, both of us are failing.)  I implore you to commit this particular text to memory or at least read it enough so that you are extremely familiar with it.  Thoreau was an institutional representative too, briefly.

Again, my goal here is to help you understand the ways in which we might come to a "common" understanding of your meaning in this message by using some core strategies.


Unprotected Powerless Nobody


Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace:
Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum
Quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum:
Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.

[Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;
Your word has been fulfilled.
My eyes have seen the salvation
You have prepared in the sight of every people,
A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people, Israel.]

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