152. The Comfortable Perspective

I grew up in comfortable suburban homes. I taught mostly children who were doing so, too, and my own children did, too. As we live in our “comfortable” homes, we do find aspects of our homes to complain about; it’s easy to forget about how uncomfortable things could be and focus on the problems we see. When a child is being told to eat something that doesn’t appeal to the child, it doesn’t help to think about starving children elsewhere in the world. I used to wish my parents would save the money they spent on certain foods, and send it to China, India, or somewhere. I altruistically hoped the children there wouldn’t then have to eat the foods I didn’t want. As I’ve been writing these articles, I’ve been seeing issues from my own perspective – that of someone who was always able to find a job and a relatively comfortable place to live. I usually taught children who were able to live even more comfortably, and it was easy to forget, as it was easy for the children to forget, that things could be much worse. Sometimes I envied the children I taught. Being part of a downwardly mobile generation, I wished I could have some of the luxuries children I taught had, some of which were luxuries I’d had as I was growing up. Having seen childhood, parenting, and teaching from my perspective all my life, I can’t write accurately from any other perspective. The best I can do is acknowledge that there are other perspectives – that there are people who would read what I’ve written and, to phrase it politely, have severe misgivings about much of what I’ve said. I’ve been careful to write “I think” once in a while – to remind the reader that my opinions are only my opinions. But maybe that’s not enough of a caveat. Some of my statements probably should have started with the words “from my comfortable, provincial, middle-class perspective.” Once, working in a day care center, I said to a child, “People are not for hitting.” The director of the center, a
Quaker, a pacifist, and a very gentle person, later suggested that I revise my statement: “People are not for hitting in this school.” He knew that the child was occasionally spanked at home, and didn’t want the child to think he had bad parents. I’m not sure which of my statements hold true for all children, all parents, all teachers. I’ve lived a relatively sheltered life. I’ve taught children who, I knew, were probably going to do fine. But I wonder what my philosophy would look like if things had been different for me.

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