We all operate from an internal script, largely written by our experiences from early on. Unless we are extremely adept at paying attention to the slightest hint of subconscious motivation, we are directed, even dominated by this script, without much of a chance to operate authentically, genuinely in our lives.
This script often wreaks havoc in marriage. Life is swell, everything is rosy. A couple meet, get to know one another, fall in love, enjoy hour upon hour of bliss, entranced by the wonderfulness of the other. Then, as logic would suggest, they get married. Upon the minister announcing the pair now “husband and wife,” a switch is flipped in each and the internal tapes begins to roll.
Both husband and wife now play the husband tapes and wife tapes they’ve separately formulated over the years by all of the husband/wife messages fed to them. The internal drive tapes have very little bearing on the actual relationship built by the lovers who just got married and far more to do with the marital and post marital relationships they observed growing up.
And so the phrase arises, “you’re not the person I married.” “No,” if he could speak the truth, “I am an amalgam of my father and of my mother’s relationship to my father and many, many other experiences buried so deep I may never know they are there. And by the way, why aren’t you acting like my mother?”
So it is that we are severely burdened by those messages burned into our brains when we had little power to evaluate them. So it is we find it difficult to behave authentically in our marriage.
While the scripts husbands and wives play out has a dominant role in my practice, the internal, un-audited scripts play out in every facet of our lives. And it is from that awareness that I assess the bizzare story from Gwinnett County about an elementary school third grade math sheet that posed several extremely peculiar word problems.
Among the word problems posed to the third graders were these three:
– Each tree had 56 oranges. If 8 slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?
– Frederick had 6 baskets filled with cotton. If each basket held 5 pounds, how many pounds did he have all together?
– If Frederick got two beatings a day, how many beatings did he get in one week? 2 weeks?
The school contends the questions were interdisciplinary. They were blending math with social studies. The children had been learning about Frederick Douglas, a gifted orator, author, abolitionist and escaped slave.
The elementary school’s student body is approximately 60% hispanic, 28% African American, 5% Asian and 4% white. The questions were purportedly written by one but vetted by all nine of the elementary teachers from that school.
So my concern is the school’s obvious focus is on the slave aspect of Mr. Douglas’ history writing the third graders’ internal script. These kids are around nine years old. What chance do they have of identifying the peculiar bias of the questions, whether they were written from a racist view point or from an outrage of slavery view point. Either is possible; only an investigation will reveal which is accurate.
What is certainly accurate is that the focus of the questions was not math. They weren’t even accurate historically. Mr. Douglas never picked cotton. He never picked oranges. He spent most of his young life working inside, not outside. And while he was beaten by his last “master,” Edward Covey, Mr. Douglas fought back, beating Covey. After losing the fight to Mr. Douglas, Covey never attempted to beat him again.
What also is not accurate is the math. Each tree had 56 oranges? How many trees? You can’t answer that question.
If the teachers wanted to include social studies interests in Frederick Douglas in their math questions they had much better, more affirming issues to draw from. For example, they could have asked, “In 1848, if 300 people attended the Seneca Falls Convention on women’s rights and a majority were opposed to passing a resolution proposed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton on women’s sufferage, and, after Frederick Douglas spoke in favor of the issue stating, ‘In this denial of the right to participate in government, not merely the degradation of woman and the perpetuation of a great injustice happens, but the maiming and repudiation of one-half of the moral and intellectual power of the government of the world,’ the convention attendees reconsidered the resolution and it passed by a majority, how many more people were persuaded by Mr. Douglas’ words to support sufferage for women?” Okay, not a good math question, but I was always better at social studies.
But the point is that these unfortunate third graders now have a firmly embedded internal tape based upon their teachers’ focus. And the children will grow up acting, somewhat, somehow, in accordance with that script. And because it won’t be authentic, because it won’t be a genuine response to whatever prompts that tape to run, the children will be the more limited for it.
And so are we, when we act in our married lives from scripts we learned long before we said, “I do.”