About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
She was determined not to cry. All around her, children were sobbing as though their hearts would break. Each clutched at the hem or pant leg of the parent who brought them. Each parent struggled to free a child's frantic grip and propel that child to the first day of separation. But this little girl was too proud to hold on. She had visions of the beautiful sculptures she would make. She saw in her mind the paintings she would bring home. She saw before her a line of exciting lessons and learnings, of songs and poems and numbers and letters and yes, indeed, worlds she would master. When the tears welled in her eyes, she bravely, proudly, blinked them away. She was ready for kindergarten.
Years later, through the maze of dashed hopes and forgotten dreams, she would recall the brave little girl she had been and wonder what had happened to her. Through the miasma of the struggle for survival and a child of her own whose father she no longer knew, she wondered how a life so bright with hope and pride could have deteriorated to this. "Who was she?" she asked. Where was the courage she had at five? When had the hope evaporated? How had this brave little girl so completely disappeared?
The little boy next to her wouldn't sit still. He was full of life and vigor. The explorer, the mountain climber, he opened his eyes in the morning and leaped out of bed with an excitement that rang through the neighborhood. Already the teacher was warning his father about the possibility of drugging him listless so he would conform to the docility of the other children. She called it `focus.' It wouldn't be long before he would bend--they would just have to work a while to adjust the medication.
By the time he caught his breath, he would be well past eighteen and wonder how his childhood had passed in a dream. Who was he? What had happened?
The group of children in the corner needed special services. By the third week of school, the teacher could tell. Full of eccentricities not visible in the other students, they listened to the rhythm of their own truths.
One was drawn to music. He could follow any drumbeat, remember any lyric, knew the names and songs of all the current musicians. His entire body pulsated to the tune of the radio. There would be no avenue for him. His talent was not on the curriculum. Instead, he would be dragged through histories that had no relevance to his melodic nature. He would be filled with calculations that would have been understood had they been linked to the beat of the songs in his heart. He could have composed anything, but he never had a chance.
Thwarted from discovering the calling intended for him, his life grew gray. A wife and some kids, the nine-to-five job he fell into because he didn't know what else to do, would feed his obesity, his ulcer and his sense that there should have been more, but he just couldn't remember what. What now? Is that all there is? Who was he then?
Stories like these play out in our schools every year. They create a society of adults who spend the rest of their lives looking for the identity and integrity stolen from them when they were small. According to psychologist Dr. Carl Rogers, the search for a more authentic self underlies all our interactions and strivings. Everything we do, want, crave or try is driven by our need to find the answers to these questions, "Who am I? Why am I here? What is my relationship to others?"