Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Little Learning

I hated school, in spite of it being an environment in which I thrived, for the most part. I asked my daughter yesterday if she was looking forward to returning to school. "It gives me a headache," she said. She's six, so there's a possibility that if I'd asked her the same question five minutes later she'd have nodded excitedly and started telling me about the games she plays with Pearl and Ebony and Kamar. But I asked her at the wrong time and was obliged to struggle with the guilt which accompanies the idea that you are sending your child into an environment where they are unhappy for six hours a day, every day.

My resentment of all things scholastic began in the infant classes, when on beautiful spring mornings I'd sit and wait for the other children in my class to complete exercises I'd knocked off in seconds, staring out past a climbing-frame free of clamberers to a football pitch where no goals were being scored. What was the point of these empty minutes? Why was I so confined?
Worse still, being an advanced reader, and intermittently deaf I was constantly subjected to the prodding and beeping of educationalists and audiologists, held separate and distinct from the other children by both my gifts and shortcomings. I spent entire afternoons in the small lounge at the centre of the school, reading passages from technical journals and dissertations to astonished young women in polyester trousers. A large window faced south off the lounge and along the sill were a number of potted geraniums whose baked odour made me nauseous on hot days. Xenophobia caught me out, I remember. I pronounced the first syllable zyen- which might be how they say it in Spain. I wouldn't have guessed this then, of course, back when foreign holidays were only for rich folk and criminals.

We were concerned that my daughter had inherited my hearing problems. After a series of familiar tests - you hear a beep at a range of frequencies and place a wooden peg into a hole on a board - it has been determined that there is nothing wrong with her. She's simply ignoring everyone.

She's back with her friends, at least. All presumably ambivalent about their education, applying smuggled lipgloss in a quiet corner of the playground. I hope she's happy.

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