Thursday, October 1, 2009

More than Enough?

When I was a kid, I remember watching an animated short on our local PBS station. Each scene in the short showed a character with something, for example, a little boy with a toy. The characters would shout MORE! and they would get more of whatever it was they desired. In the final scene, you see the Earth and all of its inhabitants yell MORE! again and again until the Earth begins to resemble a crumpled ball. The hand of God reaches down, picks up the lumpy Earth, and tosses it in a wastebasket. This movie had a profound effect on me. I didn't want to help contribute to making this world a pile of trash. I have a family history of hording and a healthy shopping gene, but I do the best I can and try to repurpose, recycle and reuse whenever possible.

This concept of thinking more is better is the philosophy of our culture of consumerism. We're caught between the idea that we must have the latest shiny new thing, but at the same time we don't want to just toss out the old thing, because it is still useful. I should know. I have a DVD/VCR combo that no longer works as a DVD player. Even though we gave in and bought another DVD player, the other unit will stay as long as the VCR works. What happens is that we end up with so much stuff we don't know where to store it all. So what do we do? Apparently a whole storage business has arisen from our need to have more. People rent space to store their stuff. Mistress Stuff has her own place where she can be visited and kept away from our clean lives.

But it doesn't end there. This idea of MORE infiltrates our whole being. We don't just drive somewhere, we have to see if we can get there faster than we did last time. That will give us MORE time to be where we're going. Better yet, we can schedule MORE activities if we just get the timing right. If you stay at work longer, you will make MORE money. Athletes train longer so that they can compete not only for that gold medal, but so they can also make record breaking feats. Winning doesn't seem to be enough anymore. You need to prove you are MORE than simply a great athlete.

Now there are calls to give students MORE time in school. Why? My favorite line from this article: President Obama and Duncan say kids in the United States need more school because kids in other nations have more school. We need MORE because THEY have MORE. Seriously? The article itself contradicts this idea. In spite of several countries having longer days, American children spend more instructional hours in school.

This emphasis on more is so detrimental. I can tell you from experience, if my living room is cluttered, I don't even want to be in there. Too much stuff stresses me out. The same goes for a full schedule. If we have too much to do in a day, I stress. The stress physically affects me, so my solution is to pull stuff off the calendar or at least give myself a day without commitments so that I can decompress. How will schoolkids decompress? I doubt teachers will give less homework just because the school day is longer. I doubt over-achieving parents (or overachieving kids) will lighten the weekend activities to compensate. I see a nation of overtired, cranky kids who don't know what to do with themselves when they finally get a break. How sad.

I know I am slightly biased here. My own children are homeschooled, leaning toward unschooling. My recent readings at the Freedom to Learn blog and elsewhere have molded my educational philosophy, along with my observations of my own children. I recognize that they are individuals and they each have their own learning style and interests. I honestly don't know how any teacher with a full classroom of students manages to keep the children engaged for five minutes. I have great respect for them. But I still disagree that MORE time will make these children better students.


TobyBo said...

ahem. You know, you gave us MORE to think about...

appleleaf said...

Great post. And they never seem to build homes with MORE space to fit all this stuff we're encouraged to acquire.
These people who think 6 hour days aren't enough for kids at school make me cringe. I've long been anti-homework as it is. Anything that can't be fit into 6 hours for young people should be left for the next day. Home should be a haven of leisure and winding down.
I can quite see why that mini movie made an impact on you, the way you described it.

Monica @ Paper Bridges said...

I can't see this happening. The teachers will demand more money, the school system can't afford to pay, etc. If it does, I'll be surprised.

~*~The Family~*~ said...

Bravo!!! Well said.

jugglingpaynes said...

Monica: I agree, I don't see this happening for many reasons including yours, but it is always a good idea to keep aware. It would not be the first time an idea like this passed without attention to funding. I'm simply commenting on the idea that if something isn't working, you should do it for longer, as opposed to changing methods to find a more effective way to do it. :o)

Jessica said...

I agree completely! I hate MORE as well. And I don't throw away useful items, I donate them. Someone can get use out of them. And I love recycling other people's stuff from thrift stores.

On the other note I am very opposed to the idea of more school. Parents don't see their children as it is. And they are loosing relationships because of it. I also agree with the destressing. I have had a crazy few months and it shows in myself. I have realized that I am doing too much. And its starting to give me the complex of not being enough because I can't do all of this MORE. I DON'T want my kids to have to do this either. And many countries that are competing with us in academics are actually starting school later and ending earlier than we are. Clearly showing that more is not better. Not to mention kindergarten used to be more voluntary. So already we added MORE and didn't get a good result. The philosophy less is more is truly the case with children and learning.

Inner Elder said...

I once had a T-shirt that announced "More is Less". Why do we need "more" stuff, "more" school, "more" time or "more" anything? I think it's the same reason for other addictions - I once heard it described as throwing more cookies into the dark hole within. More stuff, more cookies, more of anything will never fill up this deep spiritual need. We need to "be with it", to know the real "me" and accept her as she is. And that's a life long journey, oft times scary. Sounds like you're well on your way. Love, Mom

Keeley said...

I totally agree! I was horrified when I heard what Obama said. It was so totally uneducated! I wanted to yell. "NO! You don't get it! We don't need more, we need LESS!"

I'm so afraid that sometime soon the tentacles of government will squirm into homeschooling and rip it apart. And then what will I do? =(

The Stone Age Techie said...

Hear, hear!
I've spent the last five years working hard to stop thinking "NEED MORE" and begin thinking "Ahhh, just enough" - we are a happier, less cranky bunch as a result.
Thanks for this great post-

Janet said...

I'm in total agreement with everything you just wrote! Less is more.

My husband just passed away and one of the things that keeps popping up in my head (a bit sleep deprived so bear with me) is a conversation I had with a casual aquaintance about five years ago. I was nursing my very young infant in the tack room at the small animal barn at our fair. Many people evacuate the vicinity when a woman is nursing- even when everything is covered and very discreet. One of the 4-H dads brought over a cooler for me to use as a foot rest, pulled up a chair, and settled in to visit with me while my son ate. His wife had also nursed and it drove her crazy that everyone acted like she didn't exist while she tended to an infant- especially in the early weeks when you spend about twelve hours a day nursing.

He asked me about my family and my husband, and then he asked if I stayed home or if I worked away from home. I answered that my husband found it very important to have a parent at home with his children so I stayed home. Then I shrugged and added, "Of course, we're poor- but we're happy."

His words made such a profound impact on me that I remember and lean on them five years later. He said, "You are not poor. You are rich in everything that matters."

We never managed (or even really tried) to accumulate wealth and property. Our entire marriage we have found enough money to get by- barely. And yet- we were rich. I am still rich- even today.

I am so thankful that he supported homeschooling and wished so strongly for his children to be loved and nurtured and allowed to grow and become the wonderful adults they are destined to be. He always cringed when he heard about this advocacy for more seat time.

Tammy said...

Boy does this hit home. I'm in the process right now of downsizing our "accumulations." In other words we have way too much junk! I suppose though, that someone has to keep the professional organizers and authors of, "how to manage your clutter." in business. I suppose too that the longer school hours is a ploy to make more money. For those parents who'd love the free extra hours of babysitting I guess it's a plus. Just another reason for us to thank God for the freedom to homeschool. Nice post.

Mama Teaching 2 said...

I so hope they don't get more school...but just more quality hands on growing school. :( I have so many friends with public schooled children who are burned out and dying for some freedom...for a break! :( One of my little friends is now going all day to school, tutoring until 5 and speech therapy until 5:30. When will she play? Dinner is cold when she gets home and then it is homework, bath, and bed. How did we get to this point?

Alison Kerr said...

Aptly put, less is more!

I've reached capacity - little comes into my house any more, unless it's good food. I do need to give MORE time to clearing out though - got that hoarding tendency.

What a powerful message was in that animated short. I could feel it even just reading about it.

I'm for MORE outdoor time. MORE unstructured imaginative play. MORE time to just live and appreciate and contemplate and be together with good friends and family. MORE time to explore your own interests and learn at your own pace and discover who you are.

I say "no" to extending the school day.

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