I returned from my trip to San Francisco on Wednesday just in time for the 8th grade Back to School night at the middle school.  After my flight and having a hefty glass of pinot noir, I was more than a little ornery so I surrendered myself to a seat in the auditorium and waited to be underwhelmed.

“Let’s see if any of us learns one thing that is remotely valuable,” my cynical self whispered to Kim and Rob who had graciously given me a ride.  I find BTS nights to be the equivalent of parental blackmail. You show up — not for the vast enlightenment or brownie points with teachers — but because the self-inflicted guilt heaped on you for not attending is palpable.  However, contrary to my snide remark, by the end of the evening I had indeed learned something:

These people who call themselves educators are ruining our children.

You see for the past 13 years, I had been counting on middle school to toughen my boys up.  We are a generation of over indulging, full-on negotiating, pandering, compromising, spineless parents who seek out friendships in our children rather than respect.  Every time my boys disobeyed, smart talked, rolled their eyes, or complained about how hard their lives were, I would smile on the inside and say to myself, “Its okay. Wait until they reach the cold, hard, metal locker-lined hallways of the middle school where real life will hit them square in the face. Then they will grow up!”

Unfortunately, my brilliant plan had one fatal flaw.  I was basing my strategy on the middle school I attended – only back then we called it “junior high school” a term which was found politically unacceptable by some high-minded administrator at some point in the late 1980s.  Maybe “junior” was condescending.  Its hard to say.  But I think things started to go downhill from there.

And when I say downhill, I’m talking major coasting.  Middle school is officially no longer the glorious bastion of suffering it once was.  Whereas my generation sought only to survive this three year purgatory and became stronger because of it, my boys are actually thriving and (gulp) having fun.  No hard edges are being formed around their tender hearts.  I believe they call this a nurturing environment.  They don’t have to worry about subjects they don’t understand, friends who turn into bullies, or lousy cafeteria food.  I’m not sure either of my kids knows what the word “detention” means.  They even have recess!!  No hard knocks.  Just pats on the back all the way through.

The final straw came this year as the school completely eliminated homeroom, replacing it with a period at the end of the day called Connections, where small groups of students can check-in, get organized, reflect, and… are you ready for this…talk about how they are FEELING.”  How on earth am I supposed to raise an emotionally inaccessible male when they are feeding them crap about feelings in middle school?  Even worse, in their classes, they are able to chose the level of difficulty for their assignments and tests – green, blue or black – like the way they choose their ski slopes. This is middle school, not Aspen folks!!  How will these young impressionable minds ever live in mortal fear of getting a D if no one ever sets them properly up to fail?  Isn’t that what middle school is for?   And lastly, every 8th grader must spend mandatory time on a community service project throughout the year.  Again, what is with all the self-esteem building activities?

What’s worse, all of this goodness is taking its toll on the physical appearance of these children.  They are actually all attractive kids!  What ever happened to having to live through the fugly and morose years??  No such thing here.  Kids are delighted to wear braces and glasses are now a cool fashion statement!  Our God-given right to blackmail our children on their wedding day with pictures of them at age 12 has been completely obliterated.

How do we ever expect to build our kids into the functioning adults they need to become if we can’t break their spirits in junior…., uh…. I mean middle school?!!!!  These are our tax dollars at work, people.  If the public schools can’t demean our children properly, then I’m going to have to consider home schooling.

Because at this point I’m sure Dave and I could do a better job.

Wishing MoB readers a terrific weekend and kudos to the administration and staff at the Strath Haven Middle School, whose amazing work with our kids more than inspired me this week.
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