There is a student that sits outside the elevator I take up to my office each morning. He sits there on the ground practicing his violin and has been doing this for over two years now. When he began, it didn’t sound very good. Lots of false starts and missed notes. Now it sounds pretty good. He’s not ready for Carnegie Hall, but he is making music, not just sound and noise.
In the past couple weeks, several teachers have commented to me, while crowded in the elevator on way up, about how much he has improved. Some have mentioned that they wished they had a ten second audio clip from each day to see how it has transformed over the past year. And it has. It’s great to hear and I’m happy for him.
This isn’t about him though. It’s about the teachers, the staff, and the rules that exist in schools.
Everytime someone makes these comments, I internally ask myself, “What would they be saying right now if it had been the drums? Or hard, metal rock with an amp? Or, heaven forbid, a kid rapping, hoping to be the next Eminem or Jay Z?”
The answer is obvious. There wouldn’t have been a year of improvement. There would have been a quick, “Sorry honey, you can’t practice that here.” There would have been action, without any sympathetic thought, that it was best for all if he simply didn’t drum, rock, or rap there.
This type of discrimination is what schools do very well. We decide what is acceptable. What’s okay. Then, we simply disallow anything else. We close off the possibilities before they even begin and make sure the creativity and expression is within whatever realms we deem digestible and proper.
It makes me upset each time I hear him now. He has become an auditory symbol of all the possibilities that aren’t allowed, “because.”
So every morning I start my day with a little bit of sadness, knowing that for some, or perhaps many, of our kids, it will be another day where we kill just a little bit of whatever they’re passionate about and get them one step closer to conformity what’s expected of them.