Like many parents, I always enjoyed taking my sons to their first day of school when they were young. One year in particular stands out.
My elder son was just starting the second grade, his second year at this school. As we walked in on the first day of class, it seemed as if a party were going on. Kids were roaming the halls, teachers and staff were talking to each other and the kids, asking how them about their summer and telling them what a great year it was going to be. Amazingly, they even talked to me, asked me how my summer was, if there was anything they should try to get my son to talk about from his summer vacation.
In other words, “we’re glad you’re here, we’re going to take good care of your son.”
The next day I took my younger son to his first day of Kindergarten. I had to sign in at the front desk before walking him down the hall – an incredibly dingy, quiet, and deserted hall – to his new classroom, where we found about 10 of his new classmates sitting quietly in their chair, hands folded nicely on their desk. No one was talking to them, even the teacher. Especially the teacher, who greeted us with a curt, “Welcome to class, just find a desk and sit down while we wait for announcements.” Huh??? As I walked back out the hall, I took the time to look in on the other classes along the way. I was greeted by much the same as in my son’s room.
The message I took from that school: “we’ve got your kid for the day, as long as he does what we tell him there will be no problems.”
As many of you know, one of my sons is autistic and attended a private day-school while the other attended the local public school. Care to guess which was which in this story? (I’ll give you a hint: we were very fortunate that our autistic son went to the school he did.)
The first school is all about engagement, the other all about compliance. You may recognize this theme of compliance and engagement from Dan Pink‘s latest book, Drive. These two schools are also representative of a key theme in Seth Godin‘s newest, Linchpin, that we are churning out future “factory workers” when we should be developing artists.
More on that tomorrow in my review of Linchpin.