I have always found it a shame when I have seen girls or women dumbing themselves down, portraying themselves as the stereoptype ditz or bimbo in order to fit in. And I’ve always wondered where it comes from. Especially in light of all the empowerment campaigns we are exposed to.
And then this morning I had a conversation with my daughter. It started talking about where our youngest is with his speech (on track) and the fact that she had been a very early speaker. That she picked up French in the immersion program very quickly and that I could probably throw two more languages at her today and she’d be fluent by Christmas. It’s her thing.
As part of this she has a huge vocabulary. Words have always come out of her mouth in the correct context long before she was “old enough” to use them. We have always encouraged this, teaching her new words and explaining the meaning of anything she (or any of our kids) don’t know.
So you must understand my frustration this morning when she told me that her teacher told her that no one in her class would understand something she had written and that she needed to change the word so they would. The offending word? “Foliage.” As in the “Colours of the foliage in fall.”
]How about “Great word. I’m not sure that everyone knows it though, so how could you add another sentence to teach them that word?” That to me is teaching.
Being told to remove the word is telling my daughter that it’s not ok to have a big vocabulary. It’s not ok to be smart. That she has to dumb herself down to fit in to her class. That dumbing down her vocabulary is the way to get a good mark.
My daughter will always have to fight against assumptions about her. She is a cute blond with an athletic competitive dancer’s body. Who will ever look beyond that when she’s only using the vocabulary of a child? When she’s too afraid to use the words she knows because she may be perceived as “smart” which her teachers have taught her is “bad”.
I told her not to change the word. To add that second sentence. That it’s not her job to dumb her work down. That she is always to do her best, to strive to be better.
I just hope that next time she isn’t intimidated by the teacher. That she has the inner strength to say “No. I will not change my work for the lowest common denominator. I will do my best. And I will teach and share.”
Parenting is hard enough. And now I realize that we can’t just rail against the ridiculous standards of the fashion industry, and the silliness of the pop music industry, we now have to be on guard from the very adults who we are supposed to trust are the role models in our children’s lives.
My message to all of you: Your only role is to build every child up. If in the process of doing this you manage to teach them history and geography, math and science then you are worthy of the title “Teacher.” And as your momma used to say if you can’t say something nice, if you can’t build a child up, then don’t say anything at all.