My son has gone to a “regular” school twice – once briefly to a parochial school, and now for a slightly longer stint to a local public school. This time seemed even worse. He’d run into gay-bashing, rule-bound teachers, newsletters home with numerous spelling and grammatical errors, seen kids pretending to snort cocaine with sugar, and had just been disciplined for telling another student to stop trying to cheat off of my son’s work.
“But where do we send him?” my wife asked. Each option available to us – leaving him in public school, going to a parochial school, charter schools, or returning to homeschooling – had a significant downside to it. Whether it be enforced socialization, low standards, a lack of peer group or the like, no option seemed appropriate.
“Separate your goals,” I told my wife. “You want him to learn facts. You want him to be able to think critically. You want him to have friends (and so does he). And you want him to have time to pursue karate and step dancing. Trying to find one thing that always meets all those needs is impossible; but by separating out the functions you want, you can try to craft a solution that will work.”
This is the redemption of functionalism – and the possible redemption for anyone whose class and status is in conflict. “Negotiating Lesbian Motherhood: The Dialectics of Resistance and Accomodation” by Ellen Lewin poignantly describes the difficulties faced by women forced to choose between the paradigms of lesbianism and motherhood.
Yet, like the choices we had to make about my son’s schooling, I think that these choices are a false one. Rather than choosing either absolute, these women could begin to choose ways to meet the functional demands of both roles while compromising as little as possible of either. This is not an easy or heavily populated road, since most people are too busy identifying themselves as being part of a group. Yet this post-modern and need-driven road – the road that actually goes to the desired destination – can become more populated merely by the act of subverting the dominant paradigm. (And yes, I wait for chances to use that term too.)