Education is a matter of understanding Adam
I’m Not a Moving Target, You Just Can’t See Straight
Many homeschoolers refer to the educational process of both public and private educational institutions as the ‘factory model’ approach to managing-and-educating a crowd of children. They refer to it that way because they think of it as analogous to putting a bunch of practically identical items on a factory line on which each item is retro-fitted with the requisite skills, and in the same manner and at the same stage in the process. In other words, homeschooling parents see the process of typical non-homeschooling institutions as that of education being subsumed to the science of mass-production, and to the needs of bureaucratic quality control.
The rationalization for treating a crowd of children as identical items being retrofitted on a mass-production factory line may have something to do with the perceived need to tightly control what one is held accountable by others for ensuring ends up in an acceptable state. In other words, the ’factory model’ methods of modern educational institutions may have been partly the result of a need to ensure that the host of parents as a public force are happy with the outcome of sending their children off to be given a basic education.
So, many homeschooling parents are critical of how really basic are some of the effects of the ‘factory model’ approach. Such an approach only allows individual differences of its students as human beings when those differences are officially recognized. I like to joke about this by saying:
“When you go into the military, if they haven’t issued you opposable thumbs, then, as far as they are concerned, you do not have opposable thumbs and shall not be allowed to behave as if you do.”
From my experience as a unique individual in pre-K to 5th grade, the social culture of ‘factory model’ educational institutions is a culture which stereotypes all boys by how most boys within them act: if you aren’t common, then you must be the opposite of the common, whatever it is that happens to be common. By today’s standards, Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin were uncommon in many things, but few people who are worth their US citzenship find either of those men to have been basically absurd as human beings or as statesmen.
I was uncommon. So, once that much was known about me, I was assumed to be the opposite of whatever it was that was common. What follows is an account of my ‘uncommonness’ in terms of boys’ relations to girls, and of some of the consequences I suffered by living in a neighborhood populated almost entirely by factory-model children and their parents. My dad had been a factory-model child from the ‘40s to the ‘60s, and, unknown to me until long after he died, he (and my mom, it seems) had interpreted some of those consequences in terms of the common culture of his own school days.
Before I begin that account, it will be helpful to the reader to know that I am on the autism spectrum. You see, autism is defined partly by the possession of a sub-normal theory of mind on the part of the autistic. I know that others have minds. And, I possess the concept that others experience themselves and their environment differently than I experience myself and mine. But, having a concept of differences of experience between oneself and others is not the same as actually functioning within that concept.
You see, my theory-of-mind is about as useful as an umbrella in a typhoon. I am, in fact, all-too-aware that others have minds, and that theirs are different from mine. The effect of that awareness on my functional self-awareness is exactly that of debilitating stage fright: You find yourself on stage, and suddenly you are so intensely aware of the expectation of your audience that you become self-conscious in a way that obliterates any useful consciousness of yourself. (So, the face-value of the term ‘self-consciousness’ ironically holds no hint of the typical implied usage of that term). You freeze like a deer in the headlights of a speeding freight train, and you only hope to be allowed to avoid such a predicament as often as you please.
In a real way, for me, there is only one mind at a time: mine, or someone else’s. So, when faced with my general emotional empathy-sympathy for the expressions of others, if my facial responses match their mistaken assumptions as to how I myself relate to their intentions, then they’ll feel that I am something which I, in fact, am not. The added trouble is when my functional self-awareness is more-or-less obliterated by my awareness of what it seems to me that the other person or people think of me.
Then, it’s like being hit by a huge speeding truck every two seconds. So, it’s easily and often a very violent experience for me to converse with someone, or even to sit in a pew in a church service in which the official speaker can make out my facial expressions (even if I, for my near-sightedness, cannot make out his or her facial expressions). In short, when a person has any ‘agenda’ towards me, I all-too-easily find myself conscripted into being just like that deer in the headlights of a speeding freight train.
Now, on to the promised account.
FACTORY MODEL EDUCATION + NOT HOLDING HANDS = JUST A BULLY
I was thirteen years old. She was twelve, I think. It would be another year before my puberty was in full bloom. Hers too, I assume. We were going to the store together: she had brought it up, and I had politely agreed. We were friends. I liked her as a girl, and she liked me as a guy. But, I did not have any sexual attraction to her. She was not my type. Just in this part of the world, there are snow leopards, lynxes, bobcats, cougars, and jaguars. She was lynx. I was snow leopard.
But, I had an attraction to the way she was: kind, pretty, and she took the initiative to let me share her life and interests. She was never sexually suggestive towards me. She was a simple girl, who had not yet been imprinted with the joy of being ‘playful’ toward a boy she liked and whom she felt would reciprocate.
We walked and talked side by side, she to my right. As we neared the cross road, she took my right hand in her left, intertwining our fingers.
That female hand, entwined in mine, produced an explosion of passion in me. From a purely sex-drive point of view, I had the urge to take her suddenly in my arms, hold her tightly to me, more-or-less grope her with one hand while the other was entwined in hers, and bury my face in her neck.
But, doing so would have been inappropriate. I had, and still have, four reasons why:
1) I couldn’t promise her anything;
2) While I found her to be pretty, she wasn’t really my type;
3) I already had a love interest in another girl who I hoped would love me too; and
4) So much as holding hands presented a profound conflict: I really very much could not tolerate doing so unless both I and a girl with whom I hold hands for romantic motives are prepared to be free to do any passionate thing with each other that we please, at any time in our lives from that moment onwards. In other words, we would have to be a fully and duly formed couple, or, what is called ‘ married’: we would have to be on the same page, and not only with each other; we would have to be on that page along with our parents, who took general care of us in our general growth process. And, that page could NOT be blank.
Her page was blank. Naked. Or, at least, mostly naked: naïve. (Naivety is here defined as ‘original nature, in a world which is not perfectly amenable to that nature’.)
So, I politely pulled my hand out of hers. I assumed she understood all this, including the explosion of my sense of passion for feeling her hand intertwined with mine!!!
As I inexactly recall, she asked me why I pulled away. But, I did not want to hurt her feelings. So, I simply said, “It makes me uncomfortable.” She asked me why it made me uncomfortable. But, I didn’t have any practice with this sort of predicament, to say the least. So, in a politely vague way, I said something like “It just does”. I seem to recall that she asked me a third time, and I seem to recall that I gave the same answer. In any case, I could not see why she did not understand, why she should need to ask why it makes me uncomfortable, why it’s not obvious to her as why it makes me uncomfortable. Even then, I felt that she really did understand, and that she was simply asking to get me to be more open about my feelings. It was a very frustrating moment for me. She had been naive, and I had had no idea that she was naive. It is frustrating to me each time I recall that incident, like I want to pull my hair out, or bang my head very hard repeatedly against something.
Only about ten years later, long after I had moved away, did I begin to realize that she hadn’t known any of it, and that she had interpreted my behavior in a way that I had not suspected that anyone could. After all, I’m me. She had been naive, and I had had no idea that she was naive. So, the echoing result for either of us in the response of the other was deafening: she had been naive to all of it, and I had been naive to the fact that anyone could be so naive as she had been. I had taken for granted that EVERYONE knew what I knew, and so it never occured to me that she or anyone could have mistook my reasons for distancing myself from her attempts to be romantic with me.
So, in her naivety, what she did know was what a human naturally knows without contrary experience or other contrary information: “I love you, you seem to love me, and that is all there is to know” (as in, ‘I Don’t Know Much, But I Know I Love You’, a pop song sung by Aaron Neville and Linda Ronstadt).
Some days or weeks later (I seem to recall that it was the following week), she was out on our street with her high school (senior?) friend. That senior was a tall, dark-haired girl who clearly liked to make boys know that she was a sexual being, that she ‘knew what everything was about’.
Those two girls called me over, to ‘ask me something.’ As I recall, the senior girl did the asking: ‘My young friend here wants to know if you love her.’
I looked off into the distance, and, with a wistful tone, said, “I don’t know.”
‘What do you mean “you don’t know?”’ said one of those two girls (I think it was the senior girl). I repeated my answer. I was desperately trying to be polite―and hoping to one day again see the girl who I loved.
Today I realize that the manner of my friendship with the younger of those two girls was uncommon, in that all boys are often stereotyped by how most of them act: if you aren’t common, then you must be the opposite of the common, whatever it is that happens to be common. I was uncommon. So, once that much was known about me by these two girls, I was assumed to be the opposite of whatever it was that was common. But, the younger girl didn’t know I was uncommon until, so I surmise, the senior girl ‘explained’ to her how it could ever be that a boy who seemed to like her would behave as if he didn’t know whether he ‘likes girls’ or not. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!!!!!
ARE YOU @#!! KIDDING ME???!!!!!!!!!!
Something roughly like a week later, one of the neighbor boys and I were walking to that same store. We were halfway there, and out comes this mean-and-tough kid, the son of a Marine, and starts bullying me. I’m terrified completely out of my mind, thinking that any moment I’m going to die from the sheer terror. I had only one thought, one idea, one impression, of his intention: this mean-and-tough kid is hoping I’ll die of simple terror, and he’s doing everything he can to make that happen: to make me feel a generic terror of his generic meanness.
Three or four girls came over and ‘spectated’ in favor of what I thought was an insanely mean, but generally competently aggressive, kid. Suddenly, he said, with great antagonism, “Did you know you’re gay?”
I assumed he wanted to make me his verbal puppet. I thought he wanted to make me say anything at all, and that this particular ‘question’ was what he had happened to think of as a way to increase my terror. I thought I was being pressed to utter the form of an affirmative, because I felt that if I did not comply with his demand that I say or do anything he seemed to require of me, that he would do something to me that, were I to manage to think of what it was, I would instantly die of terror in just thinking of it, writhing on the ground for thirty seconds, as the sheer terror of thinking of it turns my soul into a psychological equivalent of the final stage of hemorrhagic fever. I was so, so, sooo terrified.
It was by another, differently-motivated incident four years later, with another mean kid, that I realized that my terror in face of this mean son-of-a-Marine was equivalent to my adrenaline, and that the potential which an extremely high adrenaline level has for martially physical performance against a physical adversary.
I found it odd that he had chosen such a question as a means of trying to terrifying me at all. The question itself was beyond absurd: it was uninteresting. In recalling the incident, I find it quite humorous to realize that he thought that my terrified tone in ‘answering’ as he required meant that I was terrified to admit to him what he thought I thought I was. He could as well have asked me if I were a Martian, or if I chewed crushed glass. What’s the point of chewing glass? And, how could anyone think that someone thinks they are a Martian— much less think that for a person to answer in the affirmative the question of ‘Did you know you’re a Martian?’ means that they actually are a Martian?
I could not have imagined something so absurd—so, I didn’t: I had no idea that he had added up anything about anything. I thought he was just trying to terrify me for no reason other than that he enjoyed being mean to anyone who struck him as odd, since (I thought) it made him feel powerful to have someone to hate who he could manage to terrify. He certainly accomplished what I assumed he was after (except killing me with sheer, generic terror).
It did not occur to me until age twenty-three or twenty-four that anyone who was standing there at that incident actually thought that I was sincere in my ‘answer’. So much did I take for granted that no one took my ‘answer’ at face value that I did not account for the fact that the three or four girls who had come to ‘spectate’ in favor of that ‘insanely mean’ kid had uttered shocked “Oh, my God” ‘s in wide-eyed adoration of that mean kid’s power over me. What I mean is, while it had been apparent to me that those girls actually were persuaded to wonder that I might actually be gay, I failed to add that up with the rest of the data I observed first-person of that incident.
But, then, I always have recalled seeing doubts in those three or four girls’ eyes even as they were reacting with their “Oh my God” ‘s: they didn’t really think I was gay. But, they didn’t know what else to think, or, so it looked to me by their expressions.
Only now do I realize why those three or four ‘spectating’ girls clearly doubted the ‘clear evidence of their ears’: they saw something in my demeanor that didn’t quite add up to the face-value of my single word of ‘answer’: Something which a heady kid ‘out for blood’ was not going to notice. And, I had no idea at the time that he was ‘out for blood’: I thought he simply liked being mean, and that, since I’m so intensely aware of being my own first person singular (as in stage fright), I stand out like a sore thumb to anyone who happens for no particular reason to want to make someone feel intimidated.
As they all hopefully know by now from the International news, torture is unreliable as a means of getting real intel: it cannot be strictly relied on to produce what it appears to produce, especially not what it appears to anyone who is intent to torture to get information out of the tortured. I’ll say anything you seem to want to hear me say, lest you continue to torture me for not saying whatever it seems to me that you want to hear me say. Point to your head and say the letters ‘T’ and ‘M’ backwards.
If any one of those six or seven people who were witness to the above-descibed event reads this, I invite them to email me with any questions they may have which they think has any relevance to the topic. Such as…,
…Are you curious?
Because I ‘couldn’t care less’ what you think: you have no real power over how my life goes or doesn’t go. That’s because I’m not a part of your culture: I don’t feel conscripted to it. So, to me you are just a bully. But, to you, you not only feel conscripted, you join forces with your conscriptor for your own selfish insecurity. Because, believe me, if I’m gay, then so are you. And I’m not gay.