Sunday, September 06, 2009

Pitiless Rules

Board games are won and lost according to the rules. You can be pretty or ugly, smart or stupid, insightful, witty, or dull. Rich or poor, black or white or anywhere in between.

None of that is really going to help you win or make you lose a game.

You can't buy your way to victory in Monopoly with real money (*). You can't charm a Scrabble game, or argue your way out of home base in Sorry. And you don't lose Settlers of Catan because of your race or sexual orientation. Rules are pitiless and impersonal. The only way out is through.

I told my daughter that a minimum expected grade level from school is her goal. Frankly I don't really give a damn about her grades, nor the material she will be learning to achieve them. I want her to learn, and to love learning, and that will not come from school requirements, not from tests, and certainly not from the standardized bagruyot test inflicted on high school students for their last three years.

But there is one thing that she will definitely learn: there is no mercy in succeeding. She can argue me out of discipline and chores, charm her way into treats and vacations, and buy her way out of sandwiches for lunch. But the minimum grade goal in school is absolute. She can't charm, argue, or cajole her way out of it. Not with me, and not with her teachers.

It's not enough to know the material and fail the tests: that's a great goal, and it's also encouraged, but it's not THIS goal. THIS goal is to find out what it takes to get the minimum grade and do THAT. It may make no sense. It may have nothing to do with learning. It's pitiless and impersonal.

Why make someone do something that makes no sense? Because, unfortunately, a whole lot of life's challenges are just that. Effort, sense, and pleading only count for so much. You have to face nonsense and dispassionately bear through it on occasion.

(*) My original assertion is not entirely correct: you CAN sometimes charm, cheat, and buy your way out of games, and even grades. Some parents let kids cheat at games, or cheat for them. Some people bully or buy their way into victory, whether in games or bureaucracy. This may be true. But it's my job to not do that and to teach my children not to do that.

Maybe my only job.


1 comment:

Gerald McD said...

Excellent! Couldn't agree more.