Last week, there was a story in the news about a kindergarten principal in Long Island who send a letter to parents telling them that they were ending the annual kindergarten show, a tradition that had been going on since the parents themselves were children at the school.
The reason, as outlined in the letter, was that the demands of 2014 required educators to prepare today’s students to succeed in a competitive business world dominated by math and science.
Yes, this was a letter to parents of children in kindergarten.
Yes, it was about the annual kindergarten show, one of the most beloved events of school.
The item went viral, and the principal was mocked, a symbol of an educational system run by lunatics.
To be fair, a few parents agreed with the principal, thinking that school today is for college preparation, career readiness, and individual achievement. How can you grade or test a child participating in the show, unless it is a competition? And if you can’t grade them, what is the point?
Last night, I was in a performance of Listen to Your Mother NYC.
“Listen To Your Mother” is part of a 24-city series of live readings in honor of Mother’s Day. This New York City production features prominent local writers and performers telling their own tales of motherhood in all of its complexity, diversity, and humor.
I was especially honored to be involved since I was the only male in the group, reading a piece about my mother, who was in attendance at the show.
After the show, I was talking with the other cast members about the experience. Most felt empowered, either connecting to the concept of motherhood or the oral tradition of storytelling.
I thought about that news story about the kindergarten class in Long Island.
You see, I don’t snub my nose at the kindergarten show, or see it as inferior to a math class. And themed literary readings are theater, and theater is the adult version of the kindergarten show.
Even Shakespeare knew that. And that’s nothing to look down on.
From the minute I auditioned for Listen to Your Mother, I viewed it less as a literary event, than a theatrical one, like one of those MGM movies where someone shouts, “Let’s Put On a Show.” My story was important to the production, but no more than any of the others stories, whether sad, touching, or funny, read by anyone else at the performance.
If one piece was bad, it would make all of us look bad. It was to our common benefit to help each other, to give advice on diction, joke writing, using the microphone, and how to sit in a chair for an hour without fidgeting. I knew that I was picked to be in the show for some specific reason, and that those who auditioned and didn’t make the show were just as good, perhaps even more polished.
So my comparison of LTYM to the kindergarten show isn’t to dismiss it’s importance, but to say how much I enjoyed and savored every moment of it. I loved that our individual ambitions took a back seat to a common theatrical event — the way it’s supposed to work. Working with others is a skill as necessary to the modern world as being an “influencer.”
This “Let’s Put On a Show,” was very much alive in my early years of blogging. But at some point, we were told, “No more kindergarten shows. From now on, it’s all math and science. So out went all the badges and blogrolls, and in came the data and demographics. The social manifesto of “Is Blogging a Radical Act?” became “How much does it cost to buy more Twitter followers?” We started to believe in an online Darwinian world where only those who brand themselves as unique, or differentiate themselves from the pack, deserved to survive.
I was desperately missing the kindergarten show, a place where everyone had a role, and collaboration was necessary. That was my main takeaway from Listen to Your Mother. I already have a blog, so I did not need this showcase as outlet for my voice. What I learned was the importance of putting on a show, of rooting for the success of another because her success means your success..
We should never cancel the kindergarten show, no matter how old we get. It would be a sad world when we only respect math, science, and how many hits we get on our own blog posts.
Thank you to LTYM-NYC — the wonderful cast members, directors, and producers — and especially Ann Imig, who started it all. I know she has a theater background, so she will understand what I am saying in this post.