Yesterday I helped out at a focus group in an elementary school. I’d been looking forward to the cute little chairs and the restrooms labeled Boys and Girls instead of Men and Women, but man, I forgot how much instructional signage there is! There were signs on the wall about how to listen from your seat, how to listen from the rug, and how to enter the library. (Eyes open, feet walking, voice quiet, a couple of other pointers, I forget.) In the cafeteria there were posters about how to fill your plate with the different food groups, how exactly to wash your hands, how to have good lunchroom manners. (If you drop food on the floor, pick it up and throw it away.)
There were instructions on how to respond to bullying and how to address conflicts. There were exhortations to read, but overall hardly any of the writing on the wall was about academics.
It’s a nice homey school, with art all over the place and a spacious library. But all the signage gave me a weird feeling of Cult of Rules, Cult of Written Instruction And Policies. Maybe part of it is knowing that some kids are at school from eight in the morning until quarter to six at night (the after-school program provides dinner before the bus ride home). If I were a student there, I might want to willfully forget how to read.