Out in the world the other day I heard a young boy of seven or eight get scolded for not paying attention. The thing he was not paying attention to was his page of multiplication homework.
He didn’t want to do it.
He didn’t want to correct the wrong answers. He didn’t want to figure out the unfinished problems. He was distracted by things on a shelf. He was probably hungry. Probably tired. There were tears.
It was nearly 7 p.m. I don’t think he had any attention left in his account. I think he was overdrawn. I think he was running an attention deficit.
His adult companion — his grandmother, I think — might have realized this, had she been paying attention. But she was probably running an attention deficit, too. She was probably hungry. Probably tired.
I’ll bet she didn’t give a rat’s ass about dividing 15 by 7, either.
School intrudes on people’s lives in all kinds of slippery ways. One of the most insidious is this insistence that everyone pay attention to the things the school thinks are important. Even at 7 o’clock at night. Even when everyone is hungry, and tired, and overdrawn. Even at the expense of peace and good will between parents (and grandparents) and their kids.