I recently watched To Be and To Have, a documentary about a one room school in rural France. The teacher is obviously well-intentioned and seems to care very much about the children he’s responsible for on a day-to-day basis.
Me being me, though, I was struck most by how alive the children seem when they are doing something meaningful and how dramatically they shrink into themselves when forced to do something they have no interest in.
There’s a heartbreaking scene where a very tiny boy visiting the school cries for his mama, but the quieter heartbreak of another boy being made to color was equally disturbing to me.
The casual quality of this conversation was also very striking for me:
Student: We don’t give the orders, you give them sir.
Another Student: Yes, but when we grow up, we’ll order our children around.
Teacher: Exactly! Maybe you’ll be a teacher one day too. You’ll order your pupils around. Would you like that?
I remember wondering when I was a kid if I saw the same thing other people did when we saw a color. As time has passed I’ve come to wonder more and more if I see the same thing other people do when we see a child.