School undermines a parent’s self-discovery

This photo is part of a series by photographer Erik Ravelo, who crucifies children onto adults. If you think this picture is disturbing, you should see the ones I didn’t put on this blog.

At first I thought the artist was insane and just trying to get people angry, but then I thought, “Why is it getting me so upset?”

This one in particular really disturbed me.

I realized that what disturbed me was that kids are so vulnerable to the adults they’re surrounded by, and that the adults a child is tied to completely influences which responses the child has.

And then I wondered, “Why crucifixion? What does that mean?” Why would this even bother me because it’s so over the top? Then I realized it’s because it’s such a huge responsibility to allow a child to be tied to you.

I wonder if the tying to me makes my children turn out better or worse, due to my style of homeschooling. I’m a black‑and‑white thinker. It’s always got to be good or bad for me, and I thought to myself that I have to work really hard to help the kids get free from me, without pushing them too far away.

I first found these pictures by searching through homeschooling links that people send me, which is pretty much my favorite part of the day. They’re like little presents to me, and I opened up another one that talks about how parents should decide sleepovers for their teenagers and their partners.  The person who sent it to me said that her parents had a rule that the door had to be open if there was a boy in the room, and she said that this only encouraged her to figure out how to have sex with the door open.

And I started thinking about what I am going to do when I have kids that age. Will I allow sleepovers? Will I tell my kids to wait until they go to college to have sex? Will I tell my kids to have sex in a car so I don’t have to see it? And I thought that by the time my kids get to that age, I’ll know something. I’ll know something about what parents should do with teenagers who want to have sex, because the whole time that I’m raising my kids they’re crucified to me, and I’m learning over and over again how to make good decisions for them and how to help them make good decisions.

The thing that happens with traditional school is the kids are crucified to the schoolteacher. And in that case, it’s the schoolteacher learning how to make decisions for them, and they’re not even real world decisions. They’re artificial decisions, like which person to do a book report on, and then I saw that art project in a totally different way. I saw it as it’s my responsibility to learn how to raise children, and I learn every day by keeping them really, really close to me. This is not something I would learn if they were in school.

28 replies
  1. Liobov
    Liobov says:

    I’m not sure if this is of-topic but your post reminded me of this article

    The daughter not only helped her moms parental self-discovery but gave her i new artistic vision. I especially liked the line “kids’ imaginations way outweigh a grown-up’s”. It’s such an obvious fact that we take it for granted. But we forget how precious that raw, unstinting creativity is and how brutally fast and effective it gets killed in school. Parents who home-school have the privilege of taping in to that never ending source of out-of-the-box-thinking and, if they constructively apply their years of experience, make tangible innovations in whatever field they choose.

  2. Sandy
    Sandy says:

    I have 3 kids. Two are in college and the last one home is a teenager. They are all products of a private school. This post terrified me when I sat and thought about it.

      • Sandy
        Sandy says:

        First of all, my kids have all gone to private Catholic school,so the crucifixion imagery is especially emotional for me. To be honest, I’m not even a practicing Catholic, although I was raised as one. There are so many things I can’t relate to within my religion. But the thing that really terrified me was that I have been brainwashing my kids with Catholic rhetoric by binding my kids to their teachings and ideologies instead of giving my kids the opportunity to explore their own spirituality and educational pursuits.

        • Robin K
          Robin K says:

          I see. Perhaps you could talk to them about what you just wrote. It’s not too late for them to discover their own spirituality. I was raised very secularly and in a traditional educational setting (public school 12 years then 4 years of undergrad, etc) and now at 34 I have a totally different way of looking at the world than the way in which I was raised. I plan to home/unschool my son. I wish my mom or sister had evolved in their thinking, too, or were open to new ideas. Unfortunately, they are not supportive (yet). It would be nice to be able to share this new way of thinking with them instead of it being a barrier in our relationships.

          • Sandy
            Sandy says:

            That’s good advice. I will make it a point to talk to my kids about religion. I won’t see my college kids until Thanksgiving, but that will actually be a good time to bring up the topic as we always make them say what they are thankful for at Thanksgiving dinner.

  3. mary kathryn
    mary kathryn says:

    I guess the crucifixion imagery, to me, is more disturbing than that. A cross is not something you’re tied to, like with apron strings. A cross is an instrument of murder. It’s the thing you get nailed to painfully, and in the end it’s a slow, grueling death. And it’s done in public, before everyone, and no one intervenes. In our culture, this is what a cross signifies.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Since this is art, I took it to mean a play on words. The kids are crucified to adults. It’s not about death imagery. It’s about what life is like.

      One of the reasons I put so many photos from art galleries on my blog is that I think art forces us to look at familiar things un unfamiliar ways. Which almost always feels uncomfortable. And this is, in the end, probably what my whole blog is about.


  4. Jenifa
    Jenifa says:

    I think this is why going away to college right after school is important, it’s a chance to get away from your parents and compare horror stories.

  5. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    I found it very easy to shift responsibility to teachers when my kids were in PS. I pretended to be an involved parent and I was always at school helping out and picking my kids up and dropping off.

    But my son started having nightmares and I was clueless that it was because he was reading a book (assigned at school) that scared him.

    I never read the book or even looked into what it was about.

    Homeschooling forces you to be present. And that is good. And difficult. As a parent of college students, I am so happy that I homeschooled even though it was tough.

  6. Becky Eastham
    Becky Eastham says:

    And then I wondered, “Why crucifixion? What does that mean?” Why would this even bother me because it’s so over the top? Then I realized it’s because it’s such a huge responsibility to allow a child to be tied to you.
    Thank you. The above paragraph made a deep impact on me. I love to read your insight.(did you really fire Melissa?)

  7. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    I don’t think this is about being crucified to adults in the sense of simply being tied to them. I think it’s children as it were being sacrificed to these evils. It’s a negative connotation to be crucified/sacrificed, almost like being burnt at stake. These evils are perpetuated by people we know. (priest, mcdonalds, pedophile tourist, organ harvesting doctor,etc)

    Someone should be protecting them.

    Where are the parents?

    This is the immediate effect it had on me – “Say what you will, I have to take FULL responsibility for my kids”

  8. mh
    mh says:

    What would this look like with an IRS agent or an ICE agent as the adult? Your comment about crucifying kids on public school teachers — shudder. What would this look like with Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg or Sergey Brin as the adult? What would this look like with a pop icon as the adult? Or a sports hero? Or a black mayor? What would this look like with Joel Osteen as the adult? Or Stephen King? Or some other Prince of the Paperbacks?

    Very creepy art — must stop thinking about it.

    • Jenn
      Jenn says:

      it is indeed creepy. We do crucify our kids to those ppl that you listed. Unsupervised tv, internet porn, immoral role models, or for that matter whatever is the current “big influence in town” etc.
      It creeps us out for a little then we let it continue. Its almost like I have to be the odd one out to be a truly responsible parent!

  9. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    “I first found these pictures by searching through homeschooling links that people send me, which is pretty much my favorite part of the day. They’re like little presents to me, ”

    This is what this website is to me too. Thanks for your high quality work.

  10. Natalie Lang
    Natalie Lang says:

    Funny thing after I read this post; I saw the photo of the chubby kid crucified to Ronald McDonald and I needed some time to digest the art and interpret it, so I scrolled down to read the comments, then to the right of this page was a big glaring ad for McDonald’s. I started laughing.

    This artwork is called Los Intocables or The Untouchables; it’s about protecting kids; not from us as parents but from things in society that hurts kids. There was one about school shootings that you didn’t post; that photo was just another validation for homeschooling for me.

  11. Judy Sarden
    Judy Sarden says:

    I was talking to a stay at home mom whose husband wants her to homeschool. She said she can’t do it because the summer was enough and she can’t imagine being with her kids all the time. It would be too much. She needs some “me” time. So using the crucifixion analogy:

    1.The mom is unwilling to have her kids crucified to her all day.
    2. So instead, she insists that her kids be crucified to some other person all day.
    3. The mom fully expects this other person, the teacher, to provide her kids with everything they need – socially, academically, emotionally – all day.
    4. While at the same time the teacher has at least 26 other kids crucified to her.

    So my questions is, why would this mom expect a teacher to provide everything to her kids while the teacher is crucified to 26+ other kids, when the mother herself is unwilling to be crucified to her own two kids?

    • Betsy
      Betsy says:

      Judy, your last paragraph just beautifully stated why I had to leave public school teaching. I didn’t understand it when I didn’t have children of my own and now I understand it even less.

      • Julia
        Julia says:

        The crucifixion imagery related to the relationship between kids and adults is really compelling to think about and useful. But really, we’re all crucified to each other — it’s called society. Crucifying a child to a parent without opportunity to interact with other adults is not inherently better than giving them over to a teacher for part of the day, where they will have the opportunity to learn from other people in the world. I don’t think this crucifixion image speaks against sending children to school, but rather asks us to think very carefully about how schools operate and the relationships that are fostered there, especially between teachers and students. The current public schooling system encourages the wrong kinds of relationships, that’s for sure.

        Betsy, when you were a teacher, what sort of relationships did you have with your students? Why did you feel that you weren’t the right person for them to be crucified to? Why can’t a teacher be the person to make the right decisions for his/her students?

        Nothing against homeschooling, but this reasoning suggests that no adult other than the parent is capable of making good decisions about children, which is not true. It also suggests that parents are not largely responsible for their children when they send them to school, which is not true. Research has just shown that home life and parenting matter more than what happens in daycare and preschool for how a child progresses in life. Your children are still crucified to you if you send them to school.

  12. karelys
    karelys says:

    This is a very sensitive topic for me. I am very self critical and I have this pretty good idea of the woman I want to become. And I count the inches I progress toward becoming that woman. What gets me most frustrated is that both my husband and my son are glued to me. And all that I am and I am not will affect them both.

    For my husband it may be annoying and he may recognize what is happening. But for my baby, it will be very confusing. I feel like I have to hurry up and heal and grow out of my personal problems so that he doesn’t get a thwarted worldview. But then again, it’s impossible to determine perfect and then it’s even crazier to try to achieve it.

  13. Natalie
    Natalie says:

    Very interesting post. What I love about this photography is that it’s basically what most people already think anyway. The majority of people know that the behaviour of adults directly affect the youth. When a kid starts acting crazy, people will assume that the parents have something to do with it. Either their doing too much or not enough.

    What you hear much less often though, is that children will one day grow up into adults that have to make their own decisions. They will have to take responsibility for their own choices and their own feelings, etc…

    So I love that your mission is to help your children make good decisions – that sounds so beautiful to me.

    For me growing up – a lot of the times my parents forced me into making the SAME social decisions that they made (or would have made if they were me). I found this really oppressive and disabling, that I wasn’t being taught to trust in my own decision making ability. So now I’m a lot more aware of adults who for reasons I can’t understand, force their children to be just like them instead of encouraging them to make decisions that are good FOR THEIR KIDS. This is another kind of crucifixion that totally disturbs me, and yes, it’s very creepy but it’s apart of human society everywhere you turn.

    It’s good to recognize this because I think it helps the kids become stronger by realizing they have their own decisions to make. Which helps the parent cut any emotional or psychological ties that are inappropriate for good decision making.

    This is the kind of stuff that should be discussed on CNN. Penelope you rock!

  14. Sandy
    Sandy says:

    Sadya, I guess that topic is taboo. Our kids are not allowed to bring a friend of the opposite sex into their bedroom if it is just them two, period. But once a kid starts driving or has a BF or GF that drives, kids will find a place to be alone & have sex. It might be in the car like Penelope says, but raging teeneage hormones and young love will find a way. All a parent can do is talk to their kids about the benefits of waiting and the risks if they don’t wait. Catholic or not, I made sure my teenagers had access to condoms and told them to use one every time when they decided they were ready.

  15. s Holbrook
    s Holbrook says:

    Why is it, as a culture, that we are so willing to hand our children over to “authority figures” that we know NOTHING about for the majority of their waking day?

    Even if you ARE an involved parent, how often do you meet the teacher? What, four 10-minute parents conferences over the course of the school year? And you don’t talk about the teacher- what is his/her past, dreams, hobbies, discipline philosophy, has she/he ever left her hometown? Lived abroad with a different culture? Expienced adversity?

    And you never, ever get to CHOOSE the teacher you might want for your child- they are strickly assigned by the administrators, no changes.

    When little ones are in daycare, you interview the careers and get daily (sometimes hourly!) updates. You hand the, over to the school system, and suddenly you know NOTHING about what they do all day or about the attributes of the person almost single-handedly guiding them through learning and life.

    If I’m going to hand my children over to a teacher to be “crucified” on – I would sure as heck want to know a whole lot more about her/him.

    • Barchbo
      Barchbo says:

      When I taught school, I was always amazed how disinterested parents were in what I was teaching, what I was like, or what might be happening in my classroom…unless it affected GRADES.

      I never thought about how much people love the free babysitting until I heard Penelope say it.

  16. Sarah M
    Sarah M says:

    The photos are very thought-provoking. Thanks so much for sharing them, even if they are disturbing and offensive. Art is supposed to get under our skin.
    Sarah M

  17. Marie-INFP
    Marie-INFP says:

    You’ve come close a couple of times Penelope Trunk, but you finally did it. This blog post made me cry. I finally found the real reason for my hesitancy over being a parent.

    I thought watching my single female friends struggle to parent without a partner was one reason. Not finding the right man to be the father of my children (which I value more than him being the right husband) was the other. And while my parents divorce has had a devastating impact on me in terms of intimate relationships, their parenting was good. I could not imagining being “crucified” to any other parents.

    This said it all for me:

    I realized that what disturbed me was that kids are so vulnerable to the adults they’re surrounded by, and that the adults a child is tied to completely influences which responses the child has.

    And then I wondered, “Why crucifixion? What does that mean?” Why would this even bother me because it’s so over the top? Then I realized it’s because it’s such a huge responsibility to allow a child to be tied to you.

    Thank you, thank you and again this shows the benefits of reading all your different pages, not just the career stuff. Your insights are one in a million.

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