she wanted to be an artist and outdoor guide? They are sublimely different, these children; they are both mine; they are connected and competitive with each other.
My first reaction: to urge them to do the predictable thing, to stay in
school. I thought about all the tuition I’d paid, although in fairness, my
daughter had a significant scholarship. I wanted my children to finish
school, if only to make good on all the checks I’d written, to say that they
had completed an undergraduate degree, yet I recognized how problematic that perspective was: Stay in school long enough, with adequate
marks, and we’ll have bought your degree. And yet in these times during
which my children are becoming adults, the predictable cautions to do
what seems familiar, expected, or traditional seem the most dangerous
of all. The times we live in call into question, more than ever, ideas of
authority and obedience.
In The Little Virtues, Ginzburg discusses education as a matter of moral-
ity rather than content:
As far as the education of children is concerned I think they should be
taught not the little virtues but the great ones. Not thrift but generosity
and an indifference to money; not caution but courage and a contempt
for danger; not shrewdness but frankness and a love of truth; not tact
but love for one’s neighbour and self-denial; not a desire for success but
a desire to be and to know.
When it came to my children’s schooling, I first put them in traditional
schools but within a year or so moved them to alternative, experiential
schools. Not for my children the certainty of weekly math and spelling
quizzes or worksheets they’d be permitted to color when they’d filled in
the blanks. I was a product of Texas public schools of the ’70s: we took
our quizzes, pledged allegiance, and in defiance of federal law lowered
our heads to our desks and prayed when the morning devotional was
read over the PA system each morning, just after the sports scores. My
children’s schools, all the way through high school, were places with a
child-directed focus that included portfolio-based evaluations in lieu of
grades. They developed hypotheses, interviewed experts, built models.
They created art and traveled. Through this kind of education, I hoped
that my children would develop an understanding of themselves—their