Tuesday is the new Monday, even though Monday is the real Monday. It’s like having two Mondays in a week instead of only one. Anyway, I now have an eleven year old, a twelve year old, a fourteen year old and a sixteen year old, plus two little kids who act like they’re twenty. I feel kind of overwhelmed by all the sarcasm. I am so reaping the whirlwind. Being a nicer person probably would have been a good idea.
Or I suppose I could have gone the Emmanuel Macron way and just had less children. He is trying to patch his government back together again, and deal with all the ordinary troubles in his own country, which makes him the ideal person to weigh in from his lofty height about what women in Africa would certainly want if only they could have it—and that would be less children if you were wondering. Women, quoth Macron, if they were better educated, would have less children.
I mean, that is Africa’s chief problem—too many children. As he says, “Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight or nine children.” Twitter kindly obliged. There were lots of lovely pictures of women receiving their doctorates with loads of children in tow.
Of course, he also said, “Please present me with the young girl who decided to leave school at 10 in order to be married at 12.” I could actually present him with some of those women. I didn’t have very many friends in Africa, but the ones I did have didn’t get to go to school and were married while I was away at my own scholastic boarding experience. By the time I was finally thinking about getting married my true best friend had five children. I went home on a holiday one year and we sat across from each other awkwardly, former playmates reaching across the unsurpassable distance of time and culture. I held her beautiful latest baby in my lap and she shook her head in bewilderment and anxiety that I was probably too old to ever have children.
Pity we couldn’t have had Macron in to lecture us then, instead of trying to understand each other and catch up on our different lives. It couldn’t possibly be that my friend goes on with a deep wisdom that Macron can only dream of—not the age of having children, perhaps, and it is not my job to say, but the deep contentment of social cohesion and a future secure because of having live babies that didn’t die of malnutrition and malaria, of a perfectly swept courtyard, of being mistress of her own life.
The tragic thing, really, is that the purpose of modern education is to turn the student in on herself. Education isn’t for learning any more, it isn’t for gaining an important skill that will equip her to go out into the world to do something interesting, to do some work that needs to be done, to become, hem, a “difference-maker.” No, education, just like everything else in this sorry sordid world, is about self-fulfillment. Go to school and discover your true self—your gender identity, your racial identity, your religious identity. There you can discover that you, though a man, are really a woman and can enter and win a women’s cycling race. You can also self-identify as a minority, even though you totes aren’t one. Truly, we need Moar Education for Women, or rather, men trying to be women, and white women trying to be minorities. The best thing for Africa would be this nonsense.
In case you don’t catch my meaning, I am not a fan of taking broken, crumbling, incoherent western political ideology and foisting it on the rest of the world. It worked so well all those times ago. The best thing is to go into another cultural context and judge the way other people have organized their lives. Lecture them. Make them change. And then feel comfortable and happy about what you have done.
I am a fan of education, though—real education. An education that turns you out away from yourself, that teaches you…what’s that called…oh yeah, humility, that you are not the center of the universe and every single feeling you have is not blessed and right, that God is not whispering special messages in your ear, that people far more intelligent than you wrote works that you should struggle and strive to understand and learn from.
I am also a fan of the gospel, which, rather than destroying every culture it touches, preserves what is best and most beautiful, which dignifies women, which brings the hope so many need to get from one generation into the next. Another nice thing about the gospel is that it needs the Bible, which has to be translated. And the first people to learn to read are usually the women—established married women with children in tow, who didn’t get to go to a government school, but who carve out time to learn to read in their own languages. They read the scriptures and teach their children and eventually their hard working husbands follow along and trace their fingers along the page, sounding out the words of life.