Listen or read (7mins):
You know what, school sucks.
Not because of the emotionally crippling bullying or the fact that sitting down all day is screwing up young backs, but because of the impact the school system has on the moulding of our minds.
The style of schooling used primarily today was crafted over a century ago, and although forward thinking at the time, it does not adequately prepare young humans for life TODAY.
I’m reading a book called How to Love by Gordon Livingston (Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart and And Never Stop Dancing are two of his other books which will literally CHANGE YOUR LIFE, read them) where he is sharing his decades of experience as a psychologist to help in navigating the tricky path of love. As Gordon shares profiles of personalities and gently draws attention to the obvious – that although we all dream of it, we are rarely able to change another person – I sat there with a single thought rolling through my mind: why do we not learn about love while at school?
Correct me if I’m wrong, I believe the purpose of education is to improve the quality of our lives. So why is it that the most drastically important aspects of our lives are absent from the education system?
Where is the study of romance, relationships and sex – not just labelling bits of our anatomy, but teaching how to use them, how to touch and speak to the opposite sex, how give and receive pleasure, rather than using an awkward silence and porn as a corrupting guide to what sex is. What about love, how to recognise and maintain it, and while we’re on that topic, what about communication! The essential ingredient to living a fulfilling life.
Don’t forget money, how to gather, use, and invest it. Wealth and asset protection, property acquisition. What about the bodies we inhabit? Nutrition, health and fitness? How about stress management, how to meditate and calm and focus the mind? What about philosophy that is actually practical rather than just intellectual masturbation? How to think creatively and solve problems. Don’t forget psychology and how to recognise certain personality types and character traits. Or the simple topic which almost all of us pursue, and yet I didn’t hear mentioned once while at school: happiness. What is it, why do we all seem to covet it, and where to find it or how to create it.
God I want to go back to school if that’s what’s being taught!
Don’t get me wrong, there are aspects of school which are immensely useful, such as the social interaction and learning to read. It’s just that it’s cruel to spend twelve years indoctrinating fertile minds with the idea that an A on a test means you succeed while F means you fail.
When the reality of the world is that success in any endeavour is not a fork in the road with two options: on the left is failure and on the right is success, meaning that success is some choice which avoids failure. The reality of life is that failure is on the path that leads to success, in fact, failure is invariably tied to success, it is the necessary stepping stones that will bring you to it.
The education system teaches children the exact opposite of this.
It’s tragic to witness, they’re like lambs to the slaughter when they walk out into the world and attempt to shape the rapidly changing environment around them to those unrealistic expectations of what life and success is.
We’re placing children in a mould which is outdated, at the most malleable time of their lives. So that they leave the assembly line of the education system as deformed figures of their true selves. Some will recover and find their original shape, others will have the indentations of ‘schooling’ too heavily pressed into their psyche to change. And for them, the unlucky ones, the world is not so much an exciting land of opportunity to explore, it’s more akin to walking down a Chinese sidewalk blind folded carrying fragile packages – you’re going to fall into many holes, and brake a lot of precious things.
I guess the internet is changing this though.
We live in a time that you can type into a search bar any random little thing that is of interest to you and discover an entire world of information which you could pursue for the rest of your life.
The internet is taking over the role of the teacher.
Which may or may not be a wonderful thing.
When you consider the differences between the amount of money we pay our sports stars, celebrities and entertainers, with the amount we pay the people in charge of our children’s education. It becomes glaringly obvious what we value in this world. And unfortunately, setting our kids up for a happy fulfilling life is just not one of them.
As Og Mandino said, “you have access to the greatest mind’s to have ever lived, but there’s a catch, you have GOT TO GO TO THEM. They won’t come to you.” Og was referring to books found in libraries, but the world we inhabit today has made it even easier…we don’t have to leave our house in order to access those brilliant minds. They are simply hidden behind a few well placed questions typed or spoken into your phone.
With that in mind, in order for teaching and schooling to remain relevant and empowering (I’m being generous here, school was never empowering for me) it is vital that education shifts from ramming information down kids disinterested throats, and focus instead on sharing principles which have stood the test of time, teaching ways of thinking and looking at the world, how to ask better questions, and the most important one of all, how to foster empathy within the young minds of our next generation.
For empathy is the glue that keeps society functioning in a world of 7.5 billion diverse creatures.
Of course, all of this can be countered with the argument that it is the parents responsibilities to educate their children on these topics. I agree 100%.
However, it is difficult to teach something you have never learnt yourself. Unfortunately this is the case for most of the parents and teachers out there. And this is where empathy is key. It’s not about pointing fingers at teachers or parents and saying ‘you are bad’, it’s about acknowledging that things aren’t working and moving forward to change them.
With attention, time, and focussed thought, I believe the system we use for educating can be radically improved on. With results that will ripple throughout the lives of entire generations, ultimately transforming the world we inhabit.