The net is overflowing with educational literature whereby some experts find it remarkable to see kids come alive when they are encouraged to reflect, question and express themselves. The issue is treated like a discovery. We are all are forever searching for methods to follow, for magic wands with the power to turn a child into a decent adult by simply pronouncing the right spell.
Of course their eyes sparkle when we acknowledge they exist! Why assume otherwise in the first place? Don’t we all feel alive when others take interest in us?
As parents, teachers, educators and community leaders, perhaps, we should be asking ourselves a set of different questions about youth: do we engage them enough? Are we taking enough time to listen to their ideas, to their thoughts about the kind of world we are shaping for them? Are we giving all of our kids enough opportunities to be active, to feel a sense of home, community and be part of it? Are we doing enough to help the younger generation understand that we care about their physical and emotional well-being, about their happiness?
The words youth and apathy seem to go hand in hand nowadays.
In order to get around this we have to face the truth and tell it like it is. I’m 46. If I think back to my schooldays, well, I feel miserable. Am I the only one? School was more like a prison than a place of intellectual and emotional growth. ” Stand up, sit down, be quiet, open your books, read, line up, walk slowly, face the front, go or don’t go to the washroom…” . A set of imperative orders that rarely, very rarely included: think, speak, let alone, play.
Children and teens were and still are treated like boxes to be filled with sterile textbook notions and rules we think will make them more or less competitive in society. If you are skeptical, try asking students their opinion on this.
From the moment they begin school we demand good grades, take them to music lessons, make sure they speak at least one different language, enroll them in as many different sports activities as we can, only to find them sad, lonely and depressed. They are constantly searching for the latest iphone to replace the “old” one, for that brand new, expensive material good capable of filling the unexplainable void they feel. Objects are their rush, the cure for an otherwise bleak or non existant outlook of the future. Our expectations literally annihilate children’s creativity. Everywhere they go, young people are being told what to do and how to do it. We are robbing them of the opportunity to discover their likes and dislikes, their talents, by imposing a standardized routine that conveys an unspoken message: “You must excel in all you do in order to become a successful, good-looking adult with a well-paying job, a beautiful home and two or three nice cars parked in the driveway. ” We speculate that this is what makes people happy. So why are we all growing more and more unsatisfied, miserable, alone and mean?
Could it be that we have underestimated, thus removed the human component from both the home and school environments? As parents and educators, how much time do we devote to reading and discussing a book, to kicking a ball around in the park just for fun, to going for a walk and observing our surroundings, to watching a good movie, or baking a batch of cookies together? How much time is dedicated to the joy of sharing life, relationships that are not virtual, interests, hopes and dreams?
You see, the problem is that rules and school texts alone do not ignite the passion and love for learning, for sharing and building ideas that lead to a sense of self-worth, confidence and happiness. Without this, what is left? What will society look like when our children become adults and maybe decide to have children themselves?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to generalize. There are positive examples out there. My last question is: why are we not following the lead?
Here’s something that might help us with the answer!