Kindergarten Paranoia (Part 1): DAY 36
In and from this blog-post we are going to dig deeper into the paranoia existing in the school-system at a personal level and I will take my point of departure in my own experiences.
I have worked in many kindergartens and preschools both in Denmark and Sweden through the past twelve years. I have seen and worked in some of the worst and some of the best kindergartens and preschools. I have seen a few teachers that were passionate and many who were not and who were burned out, angry and stressed. Before discussing the insights I have gained from working in kindergartens and preschools I will start by sharing my own experiences as a child.
The paranoia I recall from kindergarten is specific and most of the memories are clear as though it happened yesterday. I now see that one of the reasons why the memories are so clear is because I have thought about them a lot throughout the years and even in some instances deliberately searched back to them to ‘find’ myself.
I shall divide the memories into four specific types of paranoia to more easily structure the process of investigating this paranoia:
1) Paranoia towards kindergarten teachers/adults in general
a. Paranoia towards getting caught doing something bad by the adults
2) Paranoia towards friends and social relationships and constellations
3) Paranoia towards pain/danger
4) Paranoia towards love/sex/romantic relationships
When I look back at this, I find it astounding that paranoia was such a significant part of my childhood. And bare in mind that we are here only looking at one dimension of my life as a young child: the school system. And at the same time it is equally astounding that one can look back at one’s life and one’s school years and not even notice how significantly paranoia shaped one’s experiences.
The first memory I have is not a specific memory but a general one. As a child I had a specific fear and resistance towards the kindergarten teachers. I experienced them not even as human beings, but more like big heads and faces with arms and legs that looked scary and that was angry or irritated but also as whom I had to negotiate with to do what I wanted and who had the power to restrict my enjoyment and expression. So in my kindergarten we had a specific system where we’d each morning sit in a circle and the children would elect themselves to participate in a specific room or activity throughout the day. We had two rooms that was the most popular to be in: the play-house-room and the pillow-room. What is interesting is that these two rooms where the only ones (besides being outside) where we could as children close the door and play without adult supervision. The first was a room with a plastic child-kitchen, cups, table and pretend-clothes where we could play ‘house’ and pretend like we were a family. The other was a room filled with pillows and a ‘tower’ in the middle that we could climb on. It is interesting because I remember this ‘tower’ from my perspective as a small child as being very big and tall. So these two rooms were the most popular among the children and when we sat in our circle deciding who would do what, I experienced much paranoia and energetic stress towards being the one elected to be in one of these rooms. I remember (this was probably once I was at least 4 or 5) that I had paranoia thoughts and took it personally when the teachers selected someone else to be in the rooms. I believed they were doing it deliberately because they didn’t like me. When I look back at it now I see that there rationale was to ‘fairly’ divide the children as well as making sure that the children would have different experiences. I always wanted to do the same; be in these two rooms. I didn’t want to be with the adults because I felt restricted, anxious and nervous around them. However the adults could possibly also have had resistances towards some of the children, like me who was often wild, couldn’t sit still and kept talking and asking questions. I know this because I have worked in preschools as an adult. I’ve experienced resistance towards specific children and I’ve seen and heard other adults experiencing resistance towards specific children while justifying this as being the child’s ‘fault’ because the child apparently has some form of ‘faulty’ character or misdemeanor. However this does not excuse me taking what was being said personally and feeling resentment towards the adults.
A particular memory that sticks out was when one of the adults prohibited me from participating in the two rooms that I wanted to play in. She said that I should sit down and make a key chain. I often had resistance towards practical projects because I experienced trouble with my motoric skills and I was often not satisfied with my creative abilities. The teacher said that I needed to learn to sit still and do something instead of just running around and playing. I remember it as being absolutely dreadful and I experienced a lot of fear towards sitting still. I was afraid of missing out on what my friends were doing. I finished the key chain and I remember within the process that I had a discussion with one of the teachers where she challenged me to sit still for two minutes. Lol – because I remember I asked her how long two minutes were. So as I was sitting there it felt like an eternity and I remember how this exercise gave me an insight into the abstraction of the concept of time.
It surprises me how uncomfortable I actually was as I spent my days in the kindergarten. I surprise me how cold and strict and distant I experienced the teachers. And now that I am a teacher myself I often have a similar impression from the opposite side of the continuum now that I am the adult faced with children. Because often I can see that they don’t trust me or any other adult. I can see that they constantly fear being yelled at, restricted or criticized. And in many instances, there’s nothing much I can do about it because exactly as I had made my mind up about adults from an early age, so do many of the children that I encounter in my work as a teacher.
It is interesting because in Scandinavia kindergarten teachers are called ‘pedagogues’ and in ancient Greece these were virtually the slaves that were responsible for walking children (obviously only boys) to their ‘real’ teacher. So based on this original definition, kindergarten teachers are like guardians that serve no other purpose than to make sure that children go to school.
As such many kindergartens functions similarly to this where the teachers aren’t passionate about their work and this is even more so now where the transition between pre-school and school is ever coinciding. Pre-schools and kindergarten are a form of containment facilities and although there do exist ambitious kindergartens such as those based on the Reggio Emilia or Montessori approach, it is my experience that most kindergartens simply exist to ensure that both parents can join the job market and safely leave their children in the hands of someone else. Gathering children in groups of 10, 20, 30 or some of the newer kindergartens that often contain more than 100 children, (the biggest I’ve heard of in Sweden had 300 children attending), is a cost-efficient solution for a society that is more concerned with making profits than with actually supporting children with the best possible care and education.
Most pre-schools and kindergartens operate similar to a prison, a factory or a hospital where meals are pre-cooked in industrial kitchens unless parents are responsible for providing meals. Days are planned sometimes several months and years in advance with the same activities repeating month after month, year after year according to the changes of the seasons or public holidays. Every Easter we had to make Easter chickens for our parents. At Christmas we made Santa’s. And this is done with the ‘educational purpose’ of teaching children ‘important’ cultural values of society as well as providing them with a ‘stable environment’. I did not experience it as such. I experienced much paranoia and fear and stress.
When I look at what kind of environment I would have liked to spend my days in as a child, it would be a lot less clinical, more homely and with fewer children and adults. The adults would be passionate, patient and understand the intrinsic details of the mental and physical development of a child. It astounds me that we as adults very seldom consider caring for children as we would want to be cared for, creating an environment that we would have enjoyed spending our days in.
In a Guaranteed Basic Income System we will be able to develop an education system – from the youngest years of a child throughout all the years of education – that actually considers what is best for the child. Because the starting-point of institutions such as kindergartens and pre-schools if they will even exist at all – will not be to simply contain children so that parents can go out and work to survive, but to create the best possible environment for children to grow and develop themselves.
We will continue in the next post.
Research material and bibliography:
Chris Hedges (2009) Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
Democracy and Education in the 21st Century – Interview with Noam Chomsky:
Noam Chomsky: Who Owns the Earth?
Suggested documentaries to watch:
John taylor gatto the ultimate history lesson:
Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g The Power Principlehttp://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/ The Trap http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap Psywar http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/ Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/ The Century of the Self: Part 1- Happiness Machines http://youtu.be/prTarrgvkjo On Advertisement and the end of the world: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0 In conjunction with this blog series, I suggest to take a moment to read the following blog-post on Basic Income and Teaching where the points I’ve discussed here are further expanded upon. I recommend reading the following blogs:
Education is a Human Right Deconstructing the Root of All Evil World’s best Education is based on Equality The Fall of our Education System Application of Knowledge, is it being Fostered in ourEducational Systems? – Education Research Part 1