Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

In Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Eric Metaxas has produced a compelling hagiography of Bonhoeffer that is accessible to the non-academic reader. In fact, I heard from an Inter-Varsity Press rep that the club of Bonhoeffer scholars is miffed at Metaxas for making it to the New York Times best-seller list. Their pique might also have to do with the fact that the author presents Bonhoeffer's theology as consistently orthodox and Jesusy--a characterization that falls far from the camp of liberal theology. He has received criticism for "hijacking" Bonhoeffer, giving us a "counterfeit" Bonhoeffer to make his theology more palatable to the evangelical mindset.

I can't address the potential theological and historical miscalculations in Metaxas' biography, but I found Bonhoeffer to be compelling because of the story it tells of a life of vibrant faith in turbulent, dangerous times. Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived in Germany during both WWI and WWII. He knew by the time he was thirteen that he would study theology, and as an adult he pastored churches, trained young pastors, and wrote prolifically about spiritual topics.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer's life story is replete with educated, accomplished, and influential figures: His father was the chair of psychiatry and neurology at the university in Breslau; his brothers excelled at law and physics; he counted among his friends, acquaintances and colleagues Bishop of Chichester George Bell, influential theologian Karl Barth; Martin "First they came for the socialists" Niemoller, pastor and theologian Franz Hildebrandt, and his best friend and biographer, Eberhardt Bethge. To read Bonhoeffer is to encounter the dominant thinkers and sculptors of 20th century protestant theology; and Metaxas weaves these characters into a detailed yet coherent and absorbing narrative.

The book's portrayal of the plot to assassinate Hitler is action-movie material; no doubt someone has already acquired the rights (Sean Soul Surfer McNamara? David L. To End All Wars Cunningham?). Bonhoeffer himself was never the guy in the room with his finger on the trigger --but his collaborators were; and Metaxas' detailed chronicle evokes suspense and intrigue.

I admire the Bonhoeffer that Metaxas depicted, but I began to wish for a bit more transparency around Bonhoeffer's struggles with sin. Was he ever lazy, selfish, or proud? Did he ever have one drink too many, or get angry or defensive? Did he ever swear, or cut someone off in traffic?

There is one account of Bonhoeffer regretting and repenting his behavior: He was asked to preach at the funeral of his twin sister's Jewish father-in-law, and sought the advice of his district superintendent because the decision was fraught with social, political, and religious ramifications. A few months after he declined, he begged forgiveness from his sister and her husband, writing "How could I have been so horribly afraid at the time?...It preys on my mind...I know now for certain that I ought to have behaved differently."

I found Metaxas' writing style to be occasionally lazy and distracting. He uses a limited vocabulary to editorialize unnecessarily. For example, "The three lectures are impressive, especially for someone only a few years out of high school..." Metaxas wrote, inserting himself as the arbiter of academic and theological value, rather than relying on an authoritative source. Two pages later: "Bonhoeffer's sentences could be impressive," Metaxas said; and in the next chapter: "...the list of speakers was impressive" at the funeral of his former teacher Adolf von Harnack. I began to think to myself, "Show, don't tell."

Metaxas' editor allowed him to get away with frequent use of cliches, a lazy device that a more dedicated writer would avoid like the plague (See what I did there?): "...(Bonhoeffer) ran a children's service, though this did not begin with the bang he had hoped."

He also writes as though he is an omniscient narrator who knows his subject's inner-most thoughts and motives; and I find this device to be untrustworthy in a work of non-fiction. For example, 

On February 4, 1936, Bonhoeffer celebrated his thirtieth birthday. He has always felt overly conscious of his age and thought thirty impossibly old.

and this:

A new decree required all Jews in Germany to wear a yellow star in public. Things had now moved into a new realm, and Bonhoeffer knew it was but a foretaste of things to come.

But these criticisms aside, I would recommend Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy as thorough and fascinating story of an extraordinary, courageous, and faithful life. I think now I will read the original biography of Bonhoeffer by Bethge -- which gets nine five-star reviews on Amazon in spite of its prohibitive 1000+ pages.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


I did not invent that term,but I plan to re-invent it starting at 5 p.m. today.

Here's what my staycation is going to look like:

1. Get up at crack of dawn* to take kids to school.
2. Come home and get back in bed for first nap of the day.
3. Then, do some combination of the following for as long as I feel like it:

Play the piano
Take walks
Have lunch with a friend

4. Take another nap.
5. Pick up kids.
6. Make dinner.
7. Coach softball
8. Stay up late watching my TiVoed TV shows
9. Go to bed.
10. Repeat steps 1-9.

What I am not going to do is spend my staycation cleaning, running errands, doing housework, and generally not relaxing. I'll do some of that shit, of course; but the plan is to be intentionally, lazily self-indulgent.

I'm looking for a Bible verse to proof-text this plan. Any thoughts from the Bible scholars out there? I'm thinking it might come from the Year of Jubilee instructions to Israel in the Old Testament.

So far, on Day Three of the Stay, I've read two books, written two blog posts, cooked a couple of great meals, taken a walk, napped, watched TiVo, coached softball. Still to come: more of the same, plus gardening, piano-playing, and lunch-having with a friend.

This is the best vacation ever. No packing, no driving, no last-minute laundry-doing. No staying up late the night before to finish getting ready, driving all the next day, and arriving exhausted.

Why did it take me so long to figure this out?

*7:30 a.m.

Six Shopping Days Left

My birthday is coming up, and I don't want my friends and family to be caught unprepared; so here's my annual birthday wish list:

1. World peace.

2. Diet Coke. Always.

3. A spice grinder such as this one or possibly this one so that I can make these delicious-sounding fish tacos. I believe the first grinder is exactly like the grinder we already have for coffee--and my question is, how do you get the blades clean so that one spice does not contaminate the next? Is there a grinder that deals with this problem?

4. A tortilla warmer such as this one. I've been cooking with tortillas more often lately, and I solve the problem of keeping them warm with the hand-towel-covering-a-warm-plate beginner's method. I'd like to become a bit more authentic and efficient in my approach.

I'm always trying to grow, you know.

5. A contribution to this excellent organization that is working toward gospel-centered renewal of lives and communities in Chicago.

6. Car-Talk Re-Usable Shopping Bags, so that I can show off my "dubious taste in radio entertainment."

In other birthday news, did you know that the following famous people share my birthday?

  • Dennis Haysbert, my favorite pretend U.S. president; 
  • Dana Carvey, the church lady of Saturday Night Live, among other characters.
  • Dr. Cornel West, a provocative progressive intellectual who I follow on Twitter.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

One More Reason to Hate School

I was looking through M. Peevie's online grade-book, and noticed a big fat zero for her latest assignment in reading, a short story. I knew she had worked hard on this story, as she always does on her homework assignments. I knew that she wrote a messy first draft and had copied it over neatly on another sheet of paper.

"M. Peevie," I said, "Why do you have a big fat zero on your short story assignment?"

M. Peevie's normally cheerful countenance clouded over. "When Ms. Swamps asked me for it, I didn't have it at my desk. I said, can I please go to my locker to get it, and she said I had to give it to her right that second or I would get a zero."

"You are freaking kidding me," I said.

"No, Mommy," M. Peevie said, worry lines creasing her forehead and tears filling her eyes. "I had one more sentence to copy over from my rough draft, and she wouldn't let me go get it. I wanted to turn it in, but she wouldn't let me!"

Grrr. I would like to know what philosophy of education, what principle of child development, this punitive stance is based upon. I'm guessing it comes from a German authoritarian and Lutheran dogmatic perspective that elevates discipline, responsibility, and obedience above all other developmental goals.

Don't get me wrong: I want my children to learn discipline and responsibility. But this hyper-punitive approach completely negated the effort, compliance, and creativity that M. Peevie had brought to the assignment to that point. Couldn't Ms. Swamps mark M. Peevie's paper down a grade or two for being late, instead of giving her a zero?

Mr. Peevie has addressed this very question to the teacher, and we await a response. I will keep you posted. I'm not optimistic.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Parenting Lessons

M. Peevie had a big bat in her softball game on Sunday, and I complimented her on her excellent hitting. "I know!" she said happily. "My first-ever home run."

"It was great, M. Peevie! I said. Then I ruined everything. "But it wasn't really a home run. It was a triple with a one-base error."

"Gee. Thanks, mom," M. Peevie said in a small voice. "Thanks for ruining my good feeling."

Well--what was I supposed to say? Am I supposed to go along with her misconception? Wouldn't that be like letting her win at CandyLand--which I could not in good conscience condone?

So I presented this moral dilemma to my non-parenting colleagues.

"Wow," said Young Master O. "You're that person in the room who always has to be right. Way to ruin her childhood."

"Yeah," said The Psychiatrist's Daughter. "My mom used to do that to me, too. She'd even cheat at Monopoly to make sure I knew what the real world was like."

I was flummoxed. "Really?" I asked. "I shouldn't have said that? But it's true."

Something can be true but not necessarily the right thing to say to an 11-year-old, they said. This sort of made sense to me, but I still needed more clarification. I asked for a script.

"Here's what you could have said," said Daughter, "How about: 'That's great, honey. I'm proud of how you drove those runs in.'"

Oh. I was starting to see a better way.

"But then," Daughter continued, "If she insists that it was a home run, you can say, 'Well, I'm very proud of you for getting that great hit, but technically it wasn't a home run.' That way you're putting the emphasis on what she did well, rather than on the fact that it wasn't as good as she thought it was."

"How do you know all this?" I asked her. "You don't even have kids."

"Years of therapy," she said. "Years of therapy."

I've been doing this parenting thing for 17 years now, and still messing things up. But hey, that's what therapy's for, right?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What Home School is NOT Going to Look Like

I don't exactly know what home-schooling A. Peevie will look like--but I have a pretty good idea of what it will NOT look like.

It will not look like A. Peevie and me sitting at the dining room table, with me as teacher and A. Peevie as student. For one thing, our dining room table is far too cluttered for that to work.

It will not look like A. Peevie doing spelling workbooks and reading history textbooks and writing papers.

It will not look like traditional school--except when we choose a traditional classroom approach to a particular subject. We may, for example, request permission for A. Peevie to attend the freshman biology class at our local high school. Our initial forays into this experiment in part-time public schooling have been so far unsuccessful.

Illinois law stipulates that public schools are compelled

To accept in part-time attendance in the regular education program of the district pupils enrolled in nonpublic schools if there is sufficient space in the public school desired to be attended. Request for attendance in the following school year must be submitted by the nonpublic school principal to the public school before May 1. Request may be made only to those public schools located in the district where the child attending the nonpublic school resides.

So I called the school, and wrote a letter (from me, the principal of Peevie Academy of Fun and Learning, or PAFL) requesting possible part-time enrollment for A. Peevie for the fall. The counselor said she'd never heard of such an arrangement; and she referred me to the assistant principal. The assistant principal had also never received a request for part-time attendance by a home-schooled student; and he said he'd do some research and get back to me. One consideration, he said, is that the school is already at or above its intended capacity.

[It does not make sense to me that the school would be required to accept him for full-time enrollment, but would be permitted to deny him admittance for one class. Does that make sense to you? I believe that either way, the school received funding for every enrolled student, whether that student is enrolled part- or full-time.]

I hope that most of A. Peevie's learning will be autodidactic and driven by his own passions. I can envision him starting a reading group with other kids who want to read classic horror fiction by Poe, Shelley, Stevenson, et al. I think he might be interested in participating in a Model United Nations program. My friend Zaby directed my attention to RadioLab, a public radio show "where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy and human experience." Perhaps this might become part of A. Peevie's science curriculum.

As the word gets out about this whole nutty home school thing, some people are skeptical--but a surprising number are supportive beyond the call of friendship. The mom of one of A. Peevie's good friends offered to tutor him in math and chemistry. Zaby put together an annotated list of potential resources and ideas for us to investigate. And X-Mom has already offered her insider intel to help me begin to get my brain around the alien notions of home 
schooling and un-schooling; and she has offered to include A. Peevie in her own home school academy as we see fit, and we hope this will be a symbiotic relationship.

This whole process has raised the intriguing question: What does a kid need to learn in high school? and also: What does an 18-year-old need to make his way in the world? What are the foundational pillars of education?

I'm pretty sure that the traditional academic model does not have a corner on the market for the answers to these questions. It's still unsettling, and a bit scary; but also: I'm convinced that for A. Peevie, at least, we will be able to do at least as well, and probably better, than any high school at preparing him for what comes next.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Letter of Reference

When I started back to work full-time in September 2010, the most difficult adjustment involved the early evening hours. The kids would go home with friends or stay in after-care at school. I would pick them up after work, drive them home, and start dinner while they worked on homework. 

At least, that was the plan. What really happened was that our drive home during the worst of rush hour was filled with hunger-and-fatigue-fueled crabbiness: crying, snarking, crabbing, complaining. The kids would be starving (in the first-world sense of the word); they'd be like hyenas finding an antelope carcass in the Serengeti, growling and snapping until they tore off a chunk, dragged it away from the pack, and filled their bellies.

At the same time, we'd be trying to deal with homework, permission slips, and conversations about bullies, hurt feelings, playground shenanigans, and the general unfairness of life. Snack time morphed into dinner time, because it didn't make sense to make a satisfying snack at four and then have dinner at six; and a small snack was never enough.

There was more of the same chaos after dinner, because homework was still hanging over us. And every damn day somebody forgot at least one book or one assignment, which they'd remember at 9 o'clock at night. Then there would be tears and tantrums and self-recriminations until the affected party finally fell asleep.

It was stressful and inefficient. All I wanted to do at night was drink wine and watch TV; and often I fell into bed exhausted, with no energy to even watch one rerun of Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

My pretend boyfriends were starting to miss me.

My friend Director J said, "You need someone to pick up the kids, feed them a snack, and get them going on their homework so you don't have to start dealing with that at 5:30." These words were a gift from God. We promptly hired our manny, Manuel, who has also been a gift from God.

When Manuel brings the kids home from school, they get started on homework while he makes them a delicious and nutritious snack, such as chateaubriand under glass or spaghettios.

They're happy and able to concentrate. Manuel gently urges them to stay focused on homework, and helps them figure it out. He patiently walks A. Peevie through challenging math problems. When they need a break from concentrating on boring homework, he takes them to the park for slacklining (their latest fun activity), tosses a football, watches You-Tube videos, or plays ping-pong. Then they get back to homework.

On afternoons when they don't have as much homework, Manuel will take them to Lisa's for frozen yogurt or to Natalie's for a hot dog. If A. Peevie has a therapy or clinic appointment after school, Manuel takes him, and I don't have to take time off work.

I walk through the door after work, and the house is generally peaceful*. One kid works on homework at the computer, the other at the kitchen table. The house smells like waffles or grilled cheese sandwiches. Sometimes Sufjan Stevens is playing on the I-Pod dock in the kitchen. He (Manuel, not Sufjan) reminds the kids to empty the dishwasher and take out the trash.

[*Unless C. Peevie is home, in which case forgetaboutit. It's loud. There is all sorts of music being played: piano, guitar, trumpet; the I-Pod is loud; there are sibling battles raging. I should change his blog name to Captain Noise.]

When Manuel is not in the house, his name is often being evoked. The other night, the whole time I was making waffles for dinner, A. Peevie was "helping" me with "encouraging" suggestions that all began with "When Manuel makes waffles, he..."Apparently, I should have listened, because my first batch of waffle batter went horribly wrong. It looked like a bowl of beige-colored hurl. Where did all those lumps come from? I threw it out and started over. I'll bet Manuel never had to throw out a batch of waffle batter.

Mr. Peevie and I are also grateful for the spiritual influence Manuel has had on our household. When C. Peevie, A. Peevie and I were shopping at the mall for non-existent pants to fit teenage boys with 24-inch waists and 32-inch inseams, we stopped for a nosh. We sat down at a table, and A. Peevie asked me, "Do you mind if I say grace?" In the middle of the crowded food court, we bowed our heads, and he prayed a gentle, thankful prayer over our Sbarro calzones.

And now Manuel is leaving us. He is pursuing his own dreams--which, whatever. I know that's  what young men do. But still. This is horribly inconvenient for me, and tragic for my family.

I wonder if he could commute from North Dakota; and I wonder if that would be asking too much.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


In my first post about homeschooling A. Peevie, I neologized "boxification" to describe how education in a traditional environment sometimes looks.

Everything is boxed up, planned, and rigidly controlled; there is very little room for exploration, imagination, or inspiration in a traditional educational setting.
I'm not saying that this is true in all schools at all times for all students. I am asserting, however, that for some kids, the strictures of a traditional school detract and distract from real learning.

For example: A. Peevie has been studying about WWII in school. He asked Mr. Peevie, "Did the emperor of Japan commit suicide after Japan lost the war?" Mr. Peevie encouraged A. Peevie to do some further study on his own to find out.

The problem is, A. Peevie has tons of stupid homework every night. This is what I mean by detracting and distracting. Left to his own devices, A. Peevie would be researching and learning about post-war Japan. That WWII study unit would not be over just because an arbitrary curriculum said it was over. His interests might take him to the World War II Database, or to the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie; or he might call his grandfather to ask about his experience in WWII, check out his army medals, and research what each one means.

Instead, he spends hours after school working on math problems that he still doesn't understand after two years of traditional instruction, filling in the blanks on spelling workbook pages, and answering questions from a 20-year-old social studies book.

Let's talk about that math situation for a moment. Why is this bright kid struggling so much to understand the basics of pre-algebra? Why are his standardized test scores dropping? He used to test in the 60th percentile, and now he is testing in the 30th. Clearly what we're doing is not working--but what is the response of the school? Do more of the same, in the same way, with the same teacher.

As Albert Einstein famously did NOT say, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. (Einstein may not have said it, but it has verisimilitude, wouldn't you agree?)

There has got to be a more effective way for A. Peevie to learn algebra. We are going to start with the Kahn videos, and go from there. Honestly, I think all he needs is a little bit of compassion, a lot of patience, and a teaching approach that correlates effectively with his learning style--whatever that is. I don't know what this looks like; my own math-phobia precludes me from dealing with algebra any more than absolutely necessary.

I also think I will ask A. Peevie to read Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences. It's been awhile since I read this tiny tome (only 180 pages), but I remember that it made math accessible, interesting, and relevant.

Mr. Peevie and I want A.Peevie to be educated. We want him to have the tools to be successful in college and in life. At this point, I believe that we will prescribe certain learning objectives that we want him to accomplish by the end of his high school years. We will also help him develop and pursue his own learning goals. Our hope is that A. Peevie's high school curriculum will primarily derive from his own interests; and that these interests will lead to an unparalleled learning experience for him.

But I'll also admit that I am terrified. It's possible that this could be a big mistake; and it's unclear what the consequences will be if it is a mistake. We're moving forward on homeschool because it feels like keeping the educational status quo for A. Peevie would be an even bigger mistake.

Fingers crossed.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Their Loss

My last post, Drastic Measures, has generated a bit of controversy.

"You are making a big mistake," one friend offered.

"Don't leave your job! Don't isolate A. Peevie!" another friend worried. (She wasn't the only one who worried about socialization--it's the obligatory objection whenever the topic of homeschooling comes up.)

These comments do not offend me; I know they spring from love and concern. But they are also driven by ignorance--and I mean that in the dictionary sense of the word, and with no rancour.

We started thinking about high school for A. Peevie sometime during his sixth grade year. We knew that the Chicago Public School selective enrollment high schools were out of our reach, and we started researching other public and private high school options. We visited the Chicago Waldorf School, and I posted on my FB page that I couldn't imagine A. Peevie going anywhere else for high school.

And then, guess what? I was a little too honest about his struggles with anxiety and organizational skills, and they turned him down. Here's the letter I wrote asking them to reconsider:
I've been thinking about Waldorf's thumbs-down on accepting A.Peevie in the high school in the fall. I don't know if you have a waiting list or not, but if so, I'd like to ask the admissions committee to reconsider his application.

One of the things you mentioned is that you are looking for students who are self-motivated learners. This is exactly the reason we are looking for a non-traditional school for him. The traditional academic environment seems to crush his spirit and his enthusiasm for learning; but when he is on his own, he takes the initiative to learn many new things. For example, he was learning about Leif Erikson in school, and he was so interested in him, and in the time period and his background, that he started teaching himself to speak Norwegian.

One of his heroes is Albert Einstein. When he learned that Einstein loved geometry (when he was about 11 years old), he decided he wanted to learn it himself--so he went online, looked up related websites, and printed out 15 pages of beginning lessons. He worked through all 15 of those pages on his own because of his own interest and curiosity.

He showed you one of his unfinished games that he had started to create. He has created several different similar games, with characters that he has drawn himself; he made duplicate card packs that he distributed to friends and neighbors, and they have ongoing games and battles using his unique characters and scenarios.

Currently, he is writing an adventure story--on his own, and not for school--that is in the fantasy/adventure genre. It's already about 15 chapters long, with unique characters and names, imaginary settings, and dramatic conflict.

You also mentioned that he might need more help than what Waldorf can give him with regard to his organizational skills. But again, it seems to me that Waldorf has exactly the environment he needs, and the study skills class seems specifically designed for kids like A.Peevie. He also has two very involved and supportive parents who are determined to make sure that he learns what he needs to learn in that arena in order to be successful.

He has managed to keep his creativity and imagination alive in spite of (I'm sorry to say) the stultifying atmosphere of a school that is not equipped to handle kids that fall outside of the traditional academic mold. He struggles, but he perseveres. He has dealt with many difficult challenges in his life, and this has given him a great deal of empathy for other people who are struggling. He is a heroic, charming, beautiful soul who will someday change the world.

A.Peevie would be a great addition to your school, and I am confident that he would thrive in an atmosphere that values individuality and creativity. I hope you'll bring my letter to the attention of TPTB (the powers that be), and that they will reconsider.

I don't know how Waldorf turned him down after that inspiring (if I do say so myself) plea, but we got a two-line response saying, "No, we're not going to reconsider; good luck; try this other school." Bastards.

After I got over being angry, I felt like God was firmly closing that door so that we could move on; and we did.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Drastic Measures

If you have ever met me, you will know that what I am about to tell you is completely and utterly unexpected, out of character, and insane.

We are going to homeschool A. Peevie for high school in the fall.


I sense a whole bunch of blog posts in my future about this decision--which, BTW, just became final this very evening.

As you may recall, we are not satisfied with the experience A. Peevie has had at the little Lutheran grade school he's been attending since kindergarten. I'm sure that most of the teachers and staff are well-intentioned--but that place is almost as inflexible as the character of the Almighty himself--only not in a good way. 

For a kid like A. Peevie, who does not have a typical learning style, and who thinks so far outside of the box that he doesn't even know there is a box, it is a prison of random, painful tortures.

One problem is the rules. They love rules, those Lutherans; they love making new ones, and allowing no exceptions to the existing ones. Even about things that really should not matter. Midway through the school year, for example, we learned that his teacher had banned the wearing of hooded sweatshirts. This was well before Geraldo Rivera infamously blamed Trayvon Martin's death on his hoodie. The reason: Hoodies make kids feel too comfortable, too relaxed.

Seriously, Ms. Lutheran School Teacher? You believe that feeling relaxed is a deterrent to learning? For A. Peevie, who lives in hoodies and finds comfort in their relaxed fit and warmth, this was a terrible blow.

This teacher is very young--which is sometimes a good thing in a teacher. But she appears to have no clue how to relate to adolescent boys. Day after day, A. Peevie would come home with a story about how she embarrassed one boy, spoke harshly to another, or teased another. This is the last thing a boy needs to deal with, when he's already trying to figure out how to navigate the scary, hairy, testosterone-fueled world of male adolescence.

Remember those unseasonably warm weeks of early spring in Chicago, when the temperatures reached the 80s on eight days in March? The principal was unwilling to allow exceptions to the rule on the books that stipulates "no shorts before April 1," and even punished kids who wore shorts on those days.

Mr. Peevie requested a special dispensation, and even offered a script for how this rule exception could be presented; and the response was, "The students will be able to wear shorts on March 23 for Fun in the Sun Day. What a blessing we have with this warm weather!" 

Predictably, and ironically, Fun in the Sun Day turned out cold and rainy.

But these are not really the reasons we are quitting school. Our reasons have to do with the random boxification of education. Everything is boxed up, planned, and rigidly controlled; there is very little room for exploration, imagination, or inspiration in a traditional educational setting. Some kids still learn and thrive and grow--possibly in spite of the boxification. 

But a kid like A. Peevie does not flourish in this kind of environment, and this is the reason we are contemplating turning our lives upside down.