Originally Published December 2014
As I contemplate school for my son (far-off as it may be since he is only 2), I can’t help but analyze the messages we were sent there growing up.
While no one comes out and says it, the underlying message taught in science, math, history, and the rest is: you need to learn this so you can get a good job. Do poorly, and no good job. No good job–no money, no survival, and no happiness. Plus some shame.
Of course, we need income! I’m definitely not disputing that. In this modern world, we need stuff (houses, clothes, cars), and we buy these with money; we get money through jobs. (Inheritance, trust funds, and lottery do the trick but are a little harder to come by.)
So I am not suggesting learning, education, and jobs are not important. My question is: Is a good job the only thing that’s important?
‘Cause we spent 7 hours a day at school, and while there was recess and P.E. (Which are disappearing in some schools), it was a lot of hours of the day and week, ages 5-18, to prepare just for getting a good job.
Some of us honestly draw a blank at that question. Uhhhh, what else would we do in school? What else are we supposed to be concerned with?
To start with, and at the risk of sounding preachy… what about the way we treat each other?
Stay with me.
Right now, in our culture, earning a living and reaching the highest place possible in one’s career is paramount. The rich, famous, and successful are practically worshipped. They are definitely the ones who are envied.
Doing well in one’s career is not just for survival–but also the route to respect and praise from others.
We have lost something unfathomably important by ignoring a person’s character in favor of his or her career success.
As we look at the world today, what would you say we are lacking?
It’s not stuff to buy or cubicles to work in.
As I briefly edit this post in January 2016, we have Donald Trump running for Republican nomination for president. I don’t think I need to elaborate.
An emphasis toward character-building–yes, taught in schools–would be immeasurably valuable in creating the society we are always hoping will one day exist. And that we have plenty of wiggle room to fit that into a school day.
From what I remember in school, the extent of character-development consisted of simple discipline when someone did something wrong. If you hit another kid, you were reprimanded or put in time-out. There was absolutely no time spent in class learning about what it means to be a good person and how and why to do it.
Yet when we look at the world today, can you think of anything more needed or more important?
What we teach our kids is completely disproportionate to what our society needs. It’s also completely lacking in anything they personally need to be emotionally mature, mentally healthy, physically healthy, to have good relationships, to resolve conflict, to live harmoniously with all kinds of people and situations….I could go on.
Readers who are 18 or older: Can you think of a few pretty big things you had to learn the hard way but could have been prepared to handle with some classes and discussion growing up?
Oh, parents are supposed to do that? And when will they get to that with kids already in school 7 hours a day, then doing extracurriculars, and then homework? And also… Where and when did the parents get to learn all that good stuff? Yeah, they (we) didn’t either.
Self-awareness, self-development, mental/emotional health, conflict resolution are–if you are lucky–hobbies you can take up if you have the initiative, the time, and are lucky enough to be aware of them.
Let’s look at the world today. Are we lacking in commerce, in industry? Hmm, I don’t think so. Are we lacking in kindness, fairness, generosity, maturity, and harmony? (Ya think?) ESPECIALLY in the world of business.
What would business (not to mention politics) look like if every single child spent 30% of their classroom time learning how to be mentally/emotionally healthy by handling stress as well as how to just get along with others? Not to mention simple ethics whether in the workplace or in one’s personal life.
Relationship Skills–even romantic relationships (yeah, teenagers are in them)
How to Create Life balance–including work, health, social life, recreation
What would happen if we learned about history through the perspective of humans and characters, rather than simply facts, chronology, and date memorization?
Who are we sending out into the world to rule corporations and countries when they have never, ever even thought about these things?
In my opinion, learning facts and figures and reading is relatively simple. Assuming the person is of average health and intelligence, it is a straightforward process. But answering the really tough questions that the newly adult-ed and independent 18-year-old now deals with daily is a different matter.
What is the difference between right and wrong? Is this relationship healthy or toxic? Am I normal or do I need help? Now that’s messy! That’s difficult.
Without kids and young people understanding the real complexity of life and what they can powerfully contribute to society by upholding high personal standards–and just taking care of their health on all levels, we are NOT sending them into the world prepared. And we are not building our future and culture for a better tomorrow in the least!
The purpose of life is not to get a good job, but may involve one. You will need a source of income, and that has to be planned out worked toward. Career success is awesome. It’s fun, it’s fulfilling, it’s good for us. But goodness, it’s not everything.
What do you think? Is our education balanced appropriately between character and career success? Leave your comments below!