Thursday, September 27, 2007

Blinkers on

Making the right choices in life should be easier. Don't get me wrong, I don't want every decision in life to be black and white, every crossroad clearly marked, or every choice a slam-dunk. That would be boring. At the same time, it would be nice for a few areas to be less a study in shades-of-grey. Driving horses have often been fitted with blinders , also called blinkers in the horse racing world, to artificially narrow their world and keep them focused on the one path ahead of them. I sympathize.

As I drove home from taking my son to class today I thought again of our present conundrum. He needs a job so he can afford insurance and perhaps save for a cheap car, but he needs a driver's license and access to a car so he can get a job, which requires getting insurance before he gets a job, which we can't afford right now. And that's just my oldest son. I also have a 16 year old son in the same boat, no driver's license, no insurance, no car, no money, no job. In fact, neither of them practice driving because the only car home during the days is my full-size Ford passenger van. We call it Moby Van. I love it but it can be intimidating as a first car. Plus I need it, so the boys can't drive it to work or school even if they did had their license and insurance, which they don't...because they don't have anything to drive. Are you getting this?

Parenting involves a myriad of decisions and choices, and each alternative has it's own fan club complete with scientific research, anecdotal evidence, personal testimonies, and dire predictions about what will happen if you don't choose correctly. Educational options are the same. Even when settled on a course of action, like homeschooling, the choices aren't over. Classical? Unschooling? Traditional? Charlotte Mason? Relaxed? Eclectic? To outsource or not? And then the branching goes on. Which math curriculum? Which science is "the best?" Is Latin essential? What about life skill?

And we won't even get started on the dizzying array of choices for faith and religious belief. Passionate, well-spoken people write volumes defending their point of view. Again, as with parenting, they cite research and history, they quote experts, and share testimonies. But there are passionate, educated, well-spoken people on almost every side of every issue. I find myself in the middle thinking I just don't have the capacity to figure it out. I hold a few foundational beliefs, and try to go from there. But it's more difficult than it sounds.

Several books I've read this year have touched on the these problems. Most notably, Mediated, The Paradox of Choice, and Blink. Though all quite different, they had a synergistic effect on me. We are overwhelmed by information and alternatives, and we are virtually unaware of how we process information and make choices. We don't know when snap judgments are not only good but vital, and when they can be catastrophic. We don't understand how we are reacting to our information-saturated, mediated, orchestrated, "unreal/real," sound-bite world.

A few well-marked paths would be great. A few certified letters from God pointing the way. A child born with a complete instruction manual attached, specific to that one-of-a-kind make and model. An educational alternative that is clearly superior. I don't want much.

I gotta go now. I need to think about dinner, which means I have to push aside all the feelings of inadequacy there..what I'm buying, how I cook it, and what it's doing to my family's health. Blinkers on.

1 comment:

Sentient Marrow said...

I hear ya'. So many choices, so little time and direction.

Could you let your son do the driving to and from school with you as the passenger so that he is at least getting experience? Like you, I drive a behemoth and although we don't use it for the commute to and from school, I do let E. drive it to and from work and other places. It scares me to death but it's practice nonetheless. As for school driving, I've actually decided to start let him do the afternoon drive home from his school which is about an hour from where we live. He has to use the turnpike and other major four lane highways to do it. Last week was the first time and he drove better on those types of road than he does on the town roads. Anway, all this to say, is that i understand! We're lucky in that we live near a train station which E. can take to work if he has to since his work is across the street from the station. It does add up, though, since even one stop here is $4. He could also ride a bike to work but it is a far ride on not so safe streets... he's done it before, though. We can't afford his insurance either. Is there anywhere your sons could work and walk/bike to? Or could they even resort to manual labor like raking yards for money or something like that?