“We Don’t Talk About College”

Writes Lisa Von Damme at Pygmalion of the Soul:

Years ago, I accompanied an 8th-grade student I had homeschooled as she visited prospective high schools. At one school, the director of admissions welcomed us and then proceeded to assault my student with the information that entry to college had become highly competitive, and she must therefore chart the right course through the right high school to stand even a chance of admission to the better colleges. She then proceeded to sell the school with the following: my student would need to take multiple AP courses—this school offered a wide variety; she would need to complete the IB program—they were honored to be a member school; she would need to be competitive in a sport and ambitious in an extra-curricular activity—they had many from which to choose. As the director mapped out all that my student must do (with the unquestioned assumption that admission to Harvard was her foremost educational goal), I looked over—and saw her wilt.

This was a child of whom I had endless vivid, touching stories from the classroom—stories of her gasping out loud when she was irrepressibly moved by a passage from Victor Hugo’s Ninety-Three; stories of her eagerly recreating science lessons at home with her parents as students; stories of her writing with ferocious confidence (though she had previously loathed writing), because, she said, I taught her how. Now, before both our eyes, education was becoming nothing about the development of invaluable, life-long skills, nothing about the discovery of joy and utility in the acquisition of knowledge, nothing about the deepening of a capacity for emotional experience. Admission to high school was about… admission to college, which was about…

The answer to that was nothing more than a vague, unstated apprehension of doom.

Many years later, I am the owner and director of a private K-8 school of 140 children in Aliso Viejo, CA. And eternally conscious of that visit to the high school and all the educational principles it implied, I am proud to say that I have a refrain here at VanDamme Academy: “We don’t talk about college.” We talk about how…

Read the rest of “We Don’t Talk About College.