Definitions are a powerful element that helps us construct the world surrounding us.
What’s a definition? Everything that constructs the reality about who we ‘are’, what we ‘do’, what things ‘are’, what things ‘do’.
As simple as it can get.
Just to begin with.
What types of definitions do our study books, schools and teachers give us today?
How much of the given ‘definitions’ are our children going to accept as de facto and will never question?
You rarely question your schools books or teachers, if I dare say – never.
Teachers, with their school books, are there to teach us.
My argument here has nothing to do with teachers or school books.
Although, if it does, it is only based on the fact that teachers and school books, but mostly teachers, could provide support.
My argument is about, would [my] children question the ‘definitions’ they are taught in school?
Would they ask themselves, ‘is this the real definition?’
‘Why is it given to me’ and ‘what purpose does it serve me’?
And I’d like them to question definitions that way.
When I was little, I grew up in a communist country and studied in a very communist school. The problem wasn’t the communism and the communist school, considering that there was no other choice but that, and empty stores, and illegal listening to VOA Europe and the Beatles.
The problem was that my parents weren’t communist, members of the communist party, or inspired by communism in any way.
I don’t think they were bothered.
Or whatever their reasons, I suffered for that. Mind you, I don’t mean to say anything about my parents.
I’m just trying to get to the point of ‘definitions’, whilst stating facts about my childhood in a communist country.
So, in the school I studied for 8 years, I was part of a very communistic class of students.
They were mostly children of military people.
For those for who ‘military’ doesn’t sound like ‘complete communists’ in a communist country, take it at face value: the equation is valid.
I’m ‘defining’ here and you could argue it, if you like.
Soldiers are being told what to do. They don’t disobey (because there’s plenty of bad stuff for those, who disobey). They do what the party tells them.
In short – they’re communists.
But even if they were not, their kids were privileged and with preferences especially in the very communistic schools, like the one, I was in.
Coming to my point:
I had these two teachers – one in literature and one in mathematics – who openly disliked me. They not only made sure I got the ‘message’, they played tricks on a daily basis.
For example, every time I knew the answer to the question the teacher would have asked, I’d lift my arm and wait to get picked to answer and get a good grade or a ‘browny point’.
But I’d never be chosen to answer.
I’d only be asked to answer whenever I did not hold my hand up.
You may accuse me that I’m biased.
I’m not. When it happens daily you, kind of, get the ‘definition’ of who they thought I was or who they thought I was about to be.
Once, the maths teacher told me that, “people like you, don’t have a place here”, in that particular school.
Many a times, they’d take me to a room, during the big break, and make me sleep in that room along with other kids who used to be called the ‘slow kids’, because I, too, am a “slow and weak” person.
Of course, I was a little, wild, energetic pixy (as I still am) and couldn’t possibly imagine sleeping in the middle of the day (as I still can’t), let alone stay still in a bed in school while the whole school was going berserk outside and playing all sorts of games.
And because I’d always refuse to sleep, I often got the ‘twist of the key’ in my thigh.
Which means, my literature teacher would come into the room, to check who’s asleep and who isn’t, and with all her red bushy hair and nastiness, she’d find me twisting and tossing. She would approach me, get her keys (to hell?!) and twist them with their sharp end into my thigh and hiss, “sleeeeeep”.
Another time, my maths teacher – who was something like our class teacher and organising pretty much any other lesson for us – took us to swimming lessons as part of PE.
I was always put aside, along with those girlies who were afraid to dip their heads into the water.
For the love of God, I couldn’t understand why they would put me on the side with the scared ones, when, I probably knew butterfly way back into my mother’s womb, besides that my father was a sailor and taught me how to swim before I knew how to walk.
The teachers kept putting me there with the wusses. I still kept playing and diving and jumping in the water, on my own, near the nerds who were practicing ‘dipping heads under the water’. But I always wondered, why am I always put aside with the ‘weak’?
Now, to the point: these examples are full of ‘definitions’ that constructed a picture of the world for me and of who I was. What was I to make of these ‘definitions’, had I not have the parents I had, who told me and taught me that these’ definitions’ weren’t ‘right’?
The funniest thing is that, if these teachers were teaching me the ‘definitions’ for ‘strong’ and ‘weak’, for ‘smart’ and ‘dumb’ (back then) by acting the way they did, in today’s terms their actions would ‘define’ nothing other than ‘child harassment’.
If ‘definitions’ are subjective (as in the examples above) and fluctuate depending on the ideological credo, the time, the cultural boundaries, and the legal obligations of a country, an organisation, or any form of unit (be that a religion or a family, for that matter), then, I would want my kids to learn to examine and question ‘definitions’ well before they decide to act upon them or let be bound by them.