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by Kenzie
Rated: ASR · Article · Educational · #691353
In my dreams, I recalled the deep conversations we've had.
When Do Dreams Become Stories? Or Stories Become Dreams?
By Marilyn Mackenzie

Sometimes my sleep is interrupted by dreams that become stories. My inner self seems to know the difference between a dream and a story, and I’ll awaken knowing I must write down the beginning of a story or poem, lest it be lost.

Recently, though, something different happened. I’ve dreamed more complete thoughts, entire stories and articles, yet even as I dreamed I knew they were thoughts about which I must write.

I’ve never had a complete writing appear in my dreams. This was different, yet when I sat down to write the words, they didn’t come. It was as if, in my wakened state, I couldn’t reach all the thoughts I’d had in my sleep. This was certainly a different kind of experience. Remember, I’ve been writing for over thirty years. Never before have I had to wait for a sequence of dreams to complete before knowing how to write about them. Last night, the sequence ended and this morning the words finally tumbled forth.

In my dreams, my story always began, "Out of the mouths of babes" so that’s the way I’ll begin.

Out of the mouths of babes. Well, not babes, exactly. My son is no longer a baby. He’s 19, and really hates that age more than most he’s experienced.

To the world, he’s supposed to be an adult. But, he’s mature enough to realize that he doesn’t know much about the world around him. He feels vulnerable, much more vulnerable than he felt as a younger person.

As a preschooler, he could run up behind me and hide from whatever he feared. As a teen, he could blame me for anything he didn’t really want to do. When asked, he could say, "My mom won’t let me." His friends could respond, "That sucks." But the subject would probably be dropped. Here in Texas, even the worst teens have some respect for their parents, and parents are usually obeyed.

When my son turned 19, it was as if the children and teens around him suddenly had a new respect for him. They knew he had become an adult at 18. But a year later, they figured he finally deserved the title. And they offered him more respect. They also started to ask for his advice in ways they never had before. He wasn’t sure he liked that or deserved that responsibility or honor.

Adults were the same way. They suddenly gave him more respect too. He looked into the mirror and wondered if he had changed over night. He listened to his own voice to try to detect a more mature sound. He couldn’t see or hear what others must have seen. Had he started carrying himself differently? More proudly? More confidently? He didn’t think so. And yet, others were responding to him differently.

Were they really responding differently? Or was he responding differently? Was he just not aware that they always did have a special admiration and respect for him that he just hadn’t seen before?

That his friends and the adults around us should think my son different than the rest doesn’t surprise me at all. He’s always been different. He’s smart, of course, but his difference isn’t about intelligence. He’s different than the rest because he has such a love for learning that he’d often rather be reading than hanging out with friends.

I can take some credit for his thirst for knowledge, I think. From the time he kicked in my womb, I read to my son. When he was only hours old, his dad, knowing my love for books and how important I thought reading would be to our son’s future, read some children’s books aloud while our son nursed. I wonder what the hospital staff thought of us?

A recent conversation with my son must have surely prompted all the dream thoughts I had of these things. My son, the thinker, was trying to understand the state of our country and the world. Like many of us, his thought process took voice. Sometimes hearing the words that echo through our brains helps us clarify them. He was trying to clarify his thoughts.

Out of the mouths of babes. My son has decided that our country really does consist of two main "classes" these days. But rather than thinking our world now consists of the rich and the poor, with our middle class having all but disappeared, my son thinks these classes are divided by something other than economics.

He looks upon our immediate world as two groups of people. One is a group that loves to learn. The individuals in this group have open minds and seek more knowledge. The second group contains individuals who have never developed a thirst for knowledge. They don’t read much, and if they do, it’s to get by in their jobs or in school.

My son blames our public education system for the fact that many around us have no desire to learn, especially once they’ve completed high school or college. While he never attended a public school himself, his friends have, and he believes the system is what has turned them against reading or learning. Or at least he believes that the schools did nothing to encourage reading and developing a thirst for knowledge. He may be right about that.

My son never attended public schools. He was brighter than most children, yet the public school system wasn’t designed to cope with him or to keep him motivated. Before kindergarten, I learned that the school district never tested children for giftedness until were in second grade.

Knowing my son’s abilities (he had already been tested by one of the same psychologists that the schools used), I feared that he would get bored with school if he wasn’t challenged from the very beginning. He had, after all, taught himself to read before the age of 3.

In kindergarten, he read and understood books at the second and third grade level. Forcing him to lag behind while children his age learned to recognize colors and learned letters and their sounds, when he could already read, just didn’t make sense to me at all.

It was then that I realized that our public school system catered to cookie-cutter kids. Children who fell in a range beyond what the school system defined as "normal" were just distractions to the teachers and to other students.

Most parents think they have no choice but to put their children in public schools. I refused to think that way, and sought a school where my son could learn. What I discovered was that a private school would cost less than preschool day care cost. Since that was already in the budget, continuing to spend the money for my son’s education wasn’t a problem.

From kindergarten through third grade, my son attended private schools, where his love for books and his desire to learn were encouraged. From 4th grade through high school, he was home schooled, and he really thrived on that.

The first two years he studied at home, he completed three years of curriculum. He wanted to continue progressing at that rate, but instead I encouraged him to read and to do projects in addition to his regular studies. Each year, he won awards from the umbrella school that governed our home schooling efforts for having read the most books and for writing the most book reports.

While my son was in private school and when he was home schooled, he had friends in the neighborhood and at church who attended public schools. It was early on that he realized how differently they learned. It was also then that he discovered how most of them – from the best to the worst students – didn’t like attending school.

At first, he didn’t’ understand that. But as they described what it was like to be in public school, he began to understand. Now as he looks back, the only thing he truly missed in high school was attending the prom. He believes that his education was well worth giving up that one event.

My son thinks that our government likes that the people it governs don’t want to learn, don’t want to read or get involved. The dumbing down of American benefits the government and politicians because fewer people will question their decisions - decisions to vote raises for themselves, decisions that will affect the lives of their constituents.

This 19-year-old looks around our neighborhood and wishes the kids could have the same excitement about learning that kids growing up the 1800’s must have had. They awoke early to get their chores done, then trekked miles to school. They wanted to learn, and learn they did. Recently, a test supposedly given to 8th graders long ago was circulated over the Internet. Few adults, even college graduates, could pass that 8th grade test today.

Today, at least here in Texas, there are tests given which must be passed in certain grades to ensure that students progress to the next level. Schools are rewarded or punished – by the amounts of money and services they receive – so they want a high percentage of students to pass those tests. No matter what teachers and administrators claim, students tell the real story, especially once they reach high school age and realize what’s going on. The schools are teaching kids to pass the tests.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to teach kids to love learning? Wouldn’t it help everyone if they were encouraged to have a thirst for knowledge? In doing these things, wouldn’t more kids be able to pass advancement tests on their own merit, and not just because weeks were spent in the classroom going over sample questions that might appear on the tests?

What if teachers were held accountable for actually teaching students to learn? What if their raises were tied to their methods of teaching, to creative instruction, to the results of student testing? What if teachers who just "taught the test" were not eligible for raises? What kind of difference would that make – in the test scores, in how children viewed school and learning, even in how school affected the rest of their lives?

Who decided that every child must be pushed ahead, no matter whether or not he or she is learning? Who decided that most high school graduates must go on to college? Will we still have tradesmen and craftsmen, even in the near future? How many young people do you know whose ambition is to be a carpenter, a cabinet maker, a bricklayer?

These are the thoughts, the questions, of my son. A young man who loves to learn. A young adult who questions the world around him. We’ve discussed these things over the past few years, but my dreams wove them all together.

When do dreams become stories or articles? Today they did. I’m proud of my son. He’s become quite a deep thinker. He's still young and doesn't have all the answers. But he certainly has the right questions.

In my dreams, I was able to recall some of the deep conversations we’ve had. Maybe I should go take a nap, so I can remember even more.
© Copyright 2003 Kenzie (kenzie at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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