or, The Fire Next Time
Son finished his afternoon quiet-time reading before I finished my afternoon's writing project (reviewing an article for an academic journal). As I stared at the computer in my study, he stuck his head in and asked if it would be OK for him to try to start a fire in the front yard with a magnifying glass.
"Uh huh," I responded blankly. "Sure." I'm not absolutely sure that my brain perceived what the question was, but even if it did, I think I would have said yes. (I mean, that magnifying glass trick doesn't actually WORK, does it?) "I'll be with you soon," I mumbled.
I go back to my work and loose track of time. Suddenly:
"I did it! FIRE! FIRE!"
Quick--get the camera: Science! Our county homeschool review is next week!
* * *
I realize now that some of you may be confused by my choice of subtitle for this post. Others may find it, um, incendiary.
The Fire Next Time is a phenomenal book by James Baldwin, published in the early 1960s. It is a call to "end the racial nightmare" that he saw in the United States. My reference to the book is really for two reasons:
1. Baldwin points out how much power the "powerless" actually have to destroy this country if they continue to be oppressed: "The Negroes of this country may never be able to rise to power, but they are very well placed indeed to precipitate chaos and bring down the curtain on the American dream." While ignoring a child for an hour or two is in no way meant to be compared to racial oppression, I like the literalness of the "powerless" one's expression today.
2. One of Baldwin's other points is that until whites end domination and discrimination, they will be intellectually enslaved themselves. It is only through efforts to create a multi-racial society based on full equality and connection that America can become a great nation. I believe the same is true of parenting and homeschooling: it is only through recognizing the
integral worth of children, and recognizing the importance of their abilities to make decisions, that adults can be free--and families and communities made whole.