Divergent

I type. When I am stressed or anxious or working something out in my head, my fingers automatically start typing into the air. I cannot control it and I don’t even know that I’m doing it. When I was younger, I used to do a strange thing with flicking my hair away from my face. It was always when I was needing to decompress. I now know that these are called tics.

This past weekend, we took our kids to see Divergent as part of Lauren’s 11th birthday celebration. The story takes place in the future. In the movie, upon reaching a certain age, each person must pick a certain virtue: Intelligence, Bravery, Kindness, or Truth. You do not get to pick more than one and you must only live, work, and interact with the people who have the exact same virtue that you do. The story centers on Tris, who is “divergent” because she realizes she has more than one virtue. In the future, divergent people must be killed because society is dependent upon keeping people in defined categories. I learned a few things during this movie: 1) This movie is not for 5 year olds and I will be paying for therapy for Aidan for many years to come, and 2)Based on this movie, Twilight and The Hunger Games, it appears that in the future, female teenage girls with thick brown hair will be able to kick everyone’s ass and land a really hot guy of their choice in the end.

This coming week, Arizona public schools plays its own game of Divergent called AIMS testing. It is our way of making sure that all of the kids in our schools are on the exact same level. No one must stand out or be different. If so, then you and your school is failing.

In preparation for the AIMS testing, the kids are told that they must do well on these tests, or, essentially, the world will end. They are given practice tests and questions. One such question is featured below. Lauren was told that her answer, Atlas, was incorrect and that j is the correct answer. I’m pretty sure that, unless these 5th graders lived in the 1980s, none of them know what a telephone book is. So, either these questions should possibly be looked at and updated, or we need to find a DeLorean this weekend so these kids can be properly prepared.

When we were told that Aidan should probably not attend the public school located next to our home, the reason we were given is that he already knew everything they were planning on teaching in Kindergarten there. And, unless he wanted to spend his year there “helping the kids catch up to him,” he should probably find somewhere else to go. When asked about possibly challenging him with some 1st grade work, we were asked “Well, then, what would we teach him in 1st grade?” We were told that the goal of this school is to make sure that all children “come out of each grade at the same level.” So, as many people in our area know, our beautiful house that we purchased only a few years ago is now for sale.

Today I saw two short documentary films about children with autism. One featured a mom who decided to “cure” her child of his autism. She wouldn’t let him act in “that way,” because it was “weird.” (In one scene, she proudly showed how she kicked away the toy cars that he used to line up in a row because she didn’t want him to have any strange habits.) She forced him to be like all the other children who were “typical,” and the teenage version of this child is now “fine.” The other film, produced by my friends Heather and Jon Gould, featured their son Cory, who also has a form of autism called “Aspergers.” Their film showed how they have decided to love and accept their child for who he is. They are not going to change him, but embrace him for his exceptional differences.

When we look at the most amazing people in the history of our society, they are usually the ones who others would have considered “different” in their time. Do you think that the people that were around when Mozart, Alexander Graham Bell, and even Steve Jobs were growing up considered them “normal?”

Each of us is unique. Each of us has something about us that makes us different. If society cannot accept this, and must continue to make each and every one of us the same to keep running, then we will simply run out of inventors, scientists and entertainers. If we are not allowed to be divergent, then we will all eventually die out.

From my perspective, the boy in the first autism movie did not appear to be “fine.” He appeared to have some unique behavioral tendencies and some hidden frustration upon learning that his mother used such aggressive methods to make him “normal.”

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I, too, could have forced my child to be “normal.” I could have forced Sam to stay away from theatre, to choose another after-school activity. I could have kicked away his puppets and costumes and made him play with trains and dinosaurs. If I wanted him to be a “typical” 12 year old boy, I, too, could make him play baseball or soccer. I could have told him 3 years ago that auditioning for a touring show called “The Addams Family” is “weird.”

No one ever tried to stop my tics. I know my parents noticed them, but they didn’t try to make me “normal.” One of the other things I do when I’m trying to comprehend the world is to write. If they had taken away all of the things that make me different, would you even be reading this now?

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3 Responses to Divergent

  1. Love it!! Embrace the differences!!

  2. Jared says:

    The thing that bothers me the most about that test question…where is “I?”

  3. Julie Linhart says:

    You should email the NYTimes this as an op-ED on what is wrong with standardized testing!! This question is appalling!

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