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Lessons from a winter concert

Here's a seasonal toast to schools that make kids do things they'd never do if free will were involved.

Exhibit A this week is my son's winter concert. Sure, there's the scuttlebutt among the kids that it's boring to rehearse - though getting out of class is a plus - or that it would improve if teachers would shorten it or maybe include something from Britney Spears.

But in an unguarded moment, he confessed that he kind of enjoyed - however briefly - the singing, which includes the usual seasonal mix of Christian, Jewish, Kwanzaa, and snow-related songs.

For me, it's another reason to celebrate in this season of goodwill. My son is not a likely candidate for voluntarily and publicly raising his voice in song. But draw on the forces of school tradition and a group of adults uninterested in polling kids about their feelings on the matter, and something good happens.

It happened too when my son had to sign up for a short drama course. Again, no choice - but suddenly he was coming home and voluntarily running through monologues or acting out a role.

Schools often give kids a lot of choice in their pursuits. But it's great also when they simply tell students that a given activity is an important part of their education. It frees kids up to engage - offering the reluctant ones the comfort of company and the too-cool ones the cover of no choice. And it means that a parent can sit in the audience or listen at home with a smile - maybe recalling a shared rite of passage and without doubt rejoicing in teachers who free her up from having to cajole a child into experiencing that important part of his education.

*E-mail newcomba@csps.com

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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