Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pseudo Indoctrination

The part of me that likes to control things has had to relax the grip a little, especially where the Faery's education is concerned. We're actually very lucky in that she's attending an excellent public school; and in a fantastic programme that has families uprooting to our neighbourhood from other parts of LA, in order to have a shot at getting in.

So far, all good.

Obviously, we're living in another country, so she isn't going to be learning the exact same things she would in Australia. It's just the way it is. Doesn't mean I have to love it, though.

I don't love that she's saying math, instead of maths. Or that she's not learning the metric system, but an outdated system of measurement that has no practical application to the rest of the world. Or that she's learning to write short dates beginning with the month.

I don't love that she's learning to spell color rather than colour (irrational I know, but the former looks incomplete to my British English eye). I will, however, fight tooth and nail for her right to be able to refer to me in her written work as Mum, not Mom. I view this as no more incorrect than the various names we use for grandparents. It's not an issue that's come up yet, but I have a feeling it will.

When the Faery first began school - as expected - I had a mountain of paperwork to fill out. One of the forms was directly for her teachers, and had a section for me to complete, regarding any important information that her teachers should know about her. I wrote that she is Australian, therefore that's the nationality she identifies with (hint: please don't tell her in class that she is American, because she isn't).

Anyhow, it's been fun to see the things she's been learning about the good old US of A. I've truly been happy for her to take part in the class celebrations for Halloween and Thanksgiving. We've had important discussions at home about equality, because of what she's learned at school about Martin Luther King Jr. These are all valuable experiences which I'm grateful she has the opportunity to engage in.

All good, then.

Last week, she came home with a little booklet of facts about America that she'd made in class.

Cute, right?

I flipped though, smiling at all the little nuggets of information, and mentally preparing a list of similar facts about Australia that she needs to know.

Then I got to the final page.

Um... no. That will not do.

I understand that in a class of twenty-five kids, sometimes details slip by. This was an innocent mistake by her teacher, but all the same, I felt the need to have a (friendly) chat with her teacher about it the next day.

I explained that the Faery was born in Australia, has lived there more than half her life, holds only an Australian passport, and is in the US on an immigrant visa. In other words, she's Australian. I also mentioned that it's really important to us that she retains her identity, and I'd really appreciate it if in future exercises like the one above, time could be taken to assist the Faery with writing correct sentences about her nationality.

I felt sorry for the teacher, and could see she was embarrassed about it (she was very apologetic), and I tried to keep the tone as light as possible. I don't like getting confrontational, and didn't want this to be awkward at all, so I also mentioned how happy I was for her to be learning all the things that she is.

Mostly, I am. But I wonder if it would be cheeky of me to suggest - seeing as the Faery's in a Korean language immersion programme - that perhaps they introduce the concept of the metric system into the curriculum for the Korean classes?

Just kidding. Sort of.

It's okay, though. I plan to teach her these things myself, in good time, so she's not overwhelmed or confused when we go back to Australia. Some things are too important to leave in the hands of others.


  1. A mutual friend pointed me to your blog. I wanted to share my mirror image post as an American ex-pat mom in Melbourne!


    1. Thank you, and snap! I've read your post and tried commenting, but it didn't appear to go through. Just wanted to say I hope the school eventually understood your position.

      PS - Your photography is amazing. You are very talented, and what a wonderful job you have!

  2. Fair enough, I think for you to want this taken into consideration. You are absolutely right - she is not American and it probably wouldn't be a big stretch to accommodate that into the exercise. She can appreciate all that is good about America without changing her nationality =)

    We've got another angle to it here: accents and how words are pronounced. I've had comments from people about how the kids say certain words with an American accent. I then explain to them that it is because their father is an American. I'm sure they just think it's because I let them watch too much TV.

    They'll have dual citizenship as well one day, when I get around to it ...

    1. The Faery is in limbo with her accent. People here will gush about her 'adorable', 'English' accent... and when we Skype with friends and family, people can't resist commenting on her Rs and her twang. I hope she doesn't get self-conscious about it.

      As a funny aside, I read your comment on my gmail account, and the ads on the side were lined up nicely with your mentions: '10 minutes to reduce accent', 'Child father rights', 'American accent reduction' and so on. I'm a little curious about the fact there's a potential market of people wanting to reduce their American accent - unless I've misunderstood. Not game to click on the link...

      And dual citizenship for your little misters? That'll be so great for them when they get older!

  3. It's a tough one, MJ.

    I can absolutely see why you would be fiercely protective of The Faery's Australian-ness. We may not be a very patriotic bunch but that doesn't mean we don't wear our nationality with pride. I feel my Australian heritage is a HUGE part of who I am.

    But I guess expecting the school to alter a little book they will have run off x amount of copies of just for one student might seem...I don't know, like a hassle? And easy to overlook.

    Like I said, absolutely a tricky one and I am certain I would have similar feelings stirred in me if one of the boys were to bring home something similar. But do you think maybe The Faery understands well enough that she is in a class of Americans who talk a lot about being American but that this doesn't alter who she is or where she is from?

    Shit. I don't know. Some would argue Australians are Americanized enough already.... (see what I did there, with the z?).

    1. Oh gosh! Maybe it came out wrong, how I wrote this... but I absolutely don't expect them to alter their resources or books because of just one student. From a teaching perspective, I know that is way too much of a pain, and impractical.

      However, I think in exercises like the one above, it can't hurt for the teacher to help her alter the sentence on her paper herself, so it's a better reflection of her own identity. It would take half a minute to assist her with, on only the odd occasion. I don't think that would be too much of a hassle.

    2. You're totally right. An easy adjustment to make.