The fear leads us to dumb down our children; it leads us to believe that those letters on that piece of paper are the most important things. In that action, we miss what is really important.
When we think of William Shakespeare, do we immediately consult the introductory pages of his play to check the grade he achieved for English? Do we look on the back of a Monet painting for the mark it was given by the teacher, because then and only then can we say it’s ‘good’?
Take a minute to watch the expert golfer. Observe the actor. Listen to the musician. Look at the painting. Really look at it. Read the book, get lost it in. Use all of your senses and take in the creative talents of these people. Are they skilled? Or are they talented? Are these terms different? We can gain skills, we can learn skills. Can we learn talent?
‘I’m cleverer than my brother, so when he gets a good grade in something my parents praise him a lot. They don’t praise me as much because I usually get good grades.’
The ‘brother’ here writes amazing stories but his spelling isn’t the best. He loves to draw, paint and create something from nothing. He is the family’s technology expert. He doesn’t get the highest grades at school in academic subjects. He also suffers from ill health a lot for which he has to stay at home. He is constantly reminded that he is ‘not as clever’ as his brother or sister. That he won’t be able to achieve the things that they will, he may not be able to go to university and get a good job. He tries hard. Really hard, to be something he’s not. To squash himself into the ‘one size fits all’ box where if he doesn’t achieve the ‘standard’ in academia then he’s just not good enough.
Society has become awash with qualifications. Letters, grades, reports and statistics form the basis of parental opinion of a child. When did children stop being believed in? Why do we need so much proof of our skills and knowledge? Why must we constantly compare children in such a way that they become homogenous?
We have created a nation of praise-hungry children, endlessly memorising lists of facts to pass tests, to achieve the next level. Then the next, and the next. Years of school to ‘educate’ ready for the ‘real world’. It is no longer acceptable to learn a skill or develop a talent, then go out and use those skills and talents. We have forgotten that somewhere, underneath it all, is a billions-strong collection of individual personalities. We are born thirsty for knowledge, and we leave this world wishing we had more. Life doesn’t come with a guarantee – no amount of letters on shiny, embossed-edged paper will grant you your wishes. And still we plod along, believing that as long as our child can get 20 out of 20 on the maths test next week, or an A in Science, he will be ok in the ‘real world’.
We are taking away our children’s need to be hungry. Children are born hungry, in all senses of the word. We need to embrace that hunger! Let them explore, let them discover the world around them, and let them be. Let them be anything they want to be. ‘Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.’ John Holt
A child is not half an adult. We have no right to tell a child that they cannot achieve. Stop dumbing down your children. Start celebrating them.
We don’t need to school the world. We need the whole world to unschool itself.