I simply don’t believe in it. Never did.
I prefer organic learning. I like for kids to be kids. And I think eight hours of institutional learning is enough for anyone. When kids get home from school they should go outside and play. They should have free time to be themselves. And a day full of answers should be balanced with enough time to create some new questions.
But my son attends a school that doesn’t believe the way I believe. So he has homework …every night. I’ve told him many times that he doesn’t have to attend that particular school. He’s free to explore any school out there. But he has decided to stay where he is. And where he is requires homework. So he is required to do it.
Last year, we hit a wall with his homework situation. He wanted to attend the school but he didn’t want to do the homework. I tried every parental tactic known to man to get him to do it. I threatened. I punished. I rewarded. I timed. I scheduled. I even DID it for him a few times just to keep him caught up. But finally, I had a talk with him and informed him that I wasn’t in fourth grade. HE was. And if he wanted to flunk out and go through it all again, that was completely up to him. But I would no longer be responsible for his homework …even though I didn’t believe he should have to do it in the first place.
So, I took my hands off the wheel and let him fall or fly on his own. And something miraculous happened: he started doing it without prompting. He started getting better marks and he started taking ownership of it. This year, he does most of his homework on the bus home, and is usually done by the time he walks in the door. I’m always there to help him if he needs it. But I’m done controlling his scholastic trajectory. It’s been my experience that if you have to force someone to learn something, they’re not really learning anything at all. One of the four or five things I remember from my one year of junior college was this quote: “truth is caught …not taught.” I think that’s just about right.
Humans have a great need to control one another. Control of the masses is one of the driving forces behind most all religions. It’s the same with most all politics. It’s a deciding factor in how we set up our societies, create our laws and operate our commerce. We need to control other humans.
I left organized religion because of this very thing. I don’t much like being told what to do. It’s an issue I’ve spent my entire life working through. It also bleeds into my politics. I’m a proponent of fewer laws …not more. If I were in charge, we might unravel more stuff than we’d ravel. But that’s just me.
I’ve found that the same personality type that wants to check the bible every ten minutes to make sure you’re measuring up spiritually, usually wants to create laws that make sure you’re measuring up legally …or socially. The hip, uber-informed politico, who scoffs at the church-lady-type mentality of religion (mainly Christianity) controlling people’s morality, will often try to achieve the same kind of control over human behavior through legislation or the courts. They’re really just two sides of the same coin.
We witness atrocities like the Vegas massacre and we think to ourselves, “if we only had this or that law, none of this would’ve happened. We can control this!” OR we say, “if people would just pray, follow Christ and adhere to his teachings, none of this would’ve happened. We can control this!” I fear neither is true.
Some believe if we could just get the right laws in place, we could affect the climate. No more hurricanes or tornadoes. Maybe the right healthcare plan could keep people from dying. Maybe the right president could keep us from having to experience war or atrocity. Maybe …
Some, on the other hand, think that maybe if we pray hard enough we can keep that twister from wrecking our home. Maybe thoughts and prayers will slow the spread of that cancer. Maybe if America just turns to God again, girls won’t get raped and boys won’t kill each other anymore. Maybe …
But neither of these things has seemed to work in all of human history. And it’s a horrifying day when you finally come to grips with how much control you DON’T have.
Despite my ardent Libertarianism I DO believe in smart laws and well placed regulations. And I’m always willing to listen to anyone who has a specific idea on how to better our existence or make us safer. But more often than not, in the wake of horrible tragedies and unthinkable disasters, people simply lash out at their own lack of control rather than finding real solutions to real problems. And that is completely understandable.
The irony about an event like Las Vegas is that someone who shoots into an innocent crowd, is probably doing so as an attempt to gain some kind of control they’ve never had. Most violence is an attempt to control. Most wars are as well. And when this is all said and done, we’re most likely going to find that the person responsible simply – underneath it all – wanted control of something.
We have been arguing about people standing for the National Anthem on football fields. But do we really want them to do something THAT sacred, against their will? Do we want them to find their own love of country voluntarily? Or do we just want to control them?
You can force your kids to do their homework. But you cannot control whether or not they learn. You can make a marriage vow. But you cannot control your spouse …and sometimes, not even yourself. You can say a pledge to a flag. But you cannot make someone else do it or want to do it. You can lower your carbon footprint. But you cannot control the wind and the rain. You can make heroin illegal. But you cannot control the addiction that it brings. And no matter how righteous your war on drugs may be, people still get them, use them and overdose on them. How has our attempt to control it worked out? And yes, you can make it next to impossible for someone to legally obtain a military style weapon. But you cannot control the heart and resolve of a madman.
There’s a certain freedom that comes with not trying to control the world. Once you embrace your own lack of control and resign yourself to being at the mercy of forces beyond you, there’s a kind of peace that follows. It’s hard to explain. But it’s true.
Still, every time I step on a stage, I know that I have no real control over what someone might decide to do from the crowd. It doesn’t matter if I’m in a church or a club or an arena, someone out in that audience could be gunning for me …for absolutely NO reason. It used to be terrifying. But now I am at peace with it. I still scan faces and smiles and body movements. But I know that we are all ultimately counting on the good will of the stranger next to us to get home safe on any given night. Some nights …like an unspeakable night in Las Vegas …that doesn’t happen.
And that is the hardest of all things to reconcile.